Pastor: Swinney's actions back up profession of faith

by Tim Ellsworth, posted Monday, January 11, 2016 (3 years ago)

Dabo Swinney
Photo courtesy of Clemson University
SENECA, S.C. (BP) -- Ryan Goodroe couldn't believe what he saw when he took his kids to play baseball in Clemson, S.C.

When he showed up for one of the first practices, he noticed Thad Turnipseed, recruiting director for the Clemson University Tigers football team, coaching one of the teams.

Goodroe, pastor of Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., just down the road from Clemson, had met Turnipseed a couple of times, so he approached him with a question.

"How are you coaching a baseball team when you're that involved in football?" Goodroe asked. "How does Dabo (Swinney, the team's head coach) let you do that?"

After all, coaches at big-time college football programs like Clemson are known for working like madmen, their lives often devoted to football and little else.

"What are you talking about?" Turnipseed responded. "Dabo does this too. One of the reasons we're all here is because Dabo is so committed to us being connected to our families and connected to our community. We find a way to be successful at our job without sacrificing those things."

Goodroe was already well aware of how outspoken Swinney, who attends NewSpring Church in Anderson, was about his Christian faith. This encounter showed him that for Swinney, the actions back up the words. That's one reason why Goodroe thinks Swinney is able to hire such a good coaching staff, and why coaches stay at Clemson for a long time -- because Swinney allows them to have a life outside of football.

"They're still winning," Goodroe said. "They're doing it in ways that are very, very successful. But I think Dabo has demonstrated that he recognizes that the football scoreboard and everything that goes along with the typical college program is not the most important thing in life.

"He knows that success is necessary to keep his job, but he's not going to be successful at his job at the cost of his family or even at the cost of his witness."

Several years ago, Goodroe noticed that Swinney sometimes signed autographs with the Bible reference of Galatians 6:9: "So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up."

In 2013, Clemson was 6-0 when Florida State came to town. The Seminoles dominated and embarrassed the Tigers, 51-14. In the postgame press conference, Goodroe said Swinney handled himself incredibly well.

"He was very complimentary of Florida State," Goodroe said. "He didn't throw his players under the bus. It was just such a mature interview that you don't hear very often."

Goodroe decided to write Swinney a letter telling him how much he appreciated that interview. He encouraged Swinney by quoting Galatians 6:9. A few days later, Swinney sent a card in response.

"Believe me, I'm not growing weary in doing good," he told Goodroe. "We're coming."

"And he was right," Goodroe said.

Clemson will play the University of Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship tonight (Jan. 11) 8:30 Eastern.

Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP).
Download Story