GRANITEVILLE — From consecutive 11-win seasons to complaints from an organization that made national news, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said the fan support has been great.
Swinney, men’s basketball coach Brad Brownell, women’s basketball coach Audra Smith and athletic director Dan Radakovich experienced that support at the Aiken Prowl and Growl on Thursday.
The Aiken County Clemson Club played host to the event at Aiken Technical College.
Fans lined to get autographs and photos with the coaches. It was also an opportunity for the coaches to give back for the support received.
“(Swinney) walks up to me every year with a handshake and looks me dead in the eye and says, ‘I appreciate what you’re doing for the university,’” club president Tripp Bryan said. “How awesome is that? He makes me feel like I’m 10 feet tall and bulletproof.”
Swinney’s football program recently came under scrutiny from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which filed a complaint saying Swinney promotes a culture that supports Christianity. The complaint said it violates constitutional guidelines against publicly funded institutions endorsing religion or engaging in religious practices.
Swinney responded with a statement saying he only requires his players to go to class, give a good effort and be good citizens.
An attorney for Clemson responded with a letter saying the foundation’s complaint made incorrect statements of the law.
“It’s unfortunate that you have to deal with stuff like that, but as I’ve said many times, we’re very proud of our program and how we do things,” Swinney said. “Our fan base has been great, as has our administration.”
Bryan, who is able to attend various Clemson functions, said Swinney and his staff know what they are allowed to do as coaches.
“I see behind the curtain a little bit,” he said. ”They know what they can and can’t do. Everything that I’ve seen personally has all been voluntary.”
Swinney said the program’s expectations on the field remain high.
“Everybody loves winning, especially when you’re finishing in the top 10 in the country,” he said.
“I think everybody understands there’s been a lot of great things accomplished within our program the last few years.”