Three years ago today: Clemson beats Bama with Hunter Renfrow pick play
Thursday marks three years to the date that the Clemson University Tigers beat the University of Alabama Crimson Tide to win the College Football Playoff National Championship, Dabo Swinney’s first as a head coach.
The game to conclude the 2016-2017 bowl season was played January 9, 2017, with Clemson coming out out top 35-31 following a last-second pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.
That go-ahead play has been the focus of considerable controversy ever since, as Bama fans and many neutral observers wondered whether the pick play should have been flagged for offensive pass interference.
Three years ago today, Deshaun Watson connected with Hunter Renfrow to win it all 🏆 pic.twitter.com/wEfGJEWwZf
— ESPN (@espn) January 9, 2020
That championship game was a rematch of the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, in which the Tide defeated Clemson 45–40.
After Clemson’s win in January 2017, Alabama would get revenge the following postseason. Head coach Nick Saban’s team defeated the Tigers in the College Football Playoff Semifinal game 24-6. However, the following season, the teams would meet in the National Championship yet again, with Clemson winning big: 44-16.
The 2019-2020 bowl season is the first in five years that will not see the Tide and Clemson face off. Clemson will play LSU in the National Championship game on Monday evening in New Orleans.
Swinney was raised in Pelham and attended the University of Alabama, where he joined the football program as a walk-on wide receiver in 1989. He subsequently earned a scholarship and lettered on three teams (1990–1992), including the Tide’s 1992 National Championship team. During his time as an undergraduate, Swinney was twice named an Academic All-SEC and SEC Scholar Athlete Honor Roll member.
While completing work on his MBA, Swinney became a graduate assistant at Alabama under Gene Stallings. Swinney would go on to coach at UA in some capacity for almost a decade.
In December 1995, Swinney received his MBA from Alabama and became a full-time assistant coach for the Tide in charge of wide receivers and tight ends. He retained these posts under Stallings’ successor, Mike DuBose, but was fired with all of DuBose’s staff in early 2001.
At the time, Swinney stayed in the state of Alabama and worked for AIG Baker Real Estate on development projects after his former strength coach at UA, Rich Wingo, became president of the company and offered him a job. Wingo is now a Republican state representative serving parts of Tuscaloosa and surrounding areas.
Swinney was drawn away from the Yellowhammer State in 2003 after Tommy Bowden, his former position coach at Alabama, became Clemson’s head coach. Swinney started with the Tigers as recruiting coordinator and also served as wide receivers coach. He became Clemson’s head coach in 2008, first on an interim basis after Bowden resigned six games into the season.
Swinney has in recent years been named at or near the top of most lists of potential eventual successors to Saban at Alabama.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn