As college football begins a new era in which athletes can profit from their name, image and likeness, some seven-year-old comments from Clemson coach Dabo Swinney suggesting his opposition to player compensation have taken on a new life.
But Clemson's current players say Swinney is fully supportive of the new NIL legislation.
"He's excited," tailback Darien Rencher told ACC Network's "Packer and Durham." "He kind of catches some things that get out of context, but he's excited for us to make the most of the opportunity. He's equipping us with everything as much as they can to make sure we have as much content and as much connections as we can. I feel like Clemson's been set up to win for a very long time and now we kind of get released to be all we can be."
In 2014, Swinney was asked about player compensation and suggested at the time that he might leave college sports to coach in the NFL if players were paid.
Swinney has since walked back those comments, saying his only priority is to ensure that any compensation is tied to academics.
Swinney declined to comment on the new NIL rules that took effect Thursday.
"I love the collegiate model," Swinney said in 2019, after the NCAA announced its initial working group to study name, image and likeness. "I love the model of education. I've always valued that. The game has changed tremendously in a positive way, and I think a lot of people aren't informed and don't understand how we've improved the game from a financial standpoint. The value of a scholarship is incredible. The improvements of meals and stipends and paying for parents to travel. There's a lot of positives. But that doesn't mean there's not room to improve things, and you've got to always look for ways to get better. That's the job of the NCAA."
While the NCAA didn't authorize a national plan for NIL until this week, several states, including South Carolina, passed NIL legislation that went into effect Thursday. Swinney said last fall that Clemson was eager to embrace the new frontier, and the program was among the first in the country to partner with a third-party marketing company, Opendorse, to aid its athletes in maximizing their opportunities.
In August, Swinney referred to NIL and Clemson's partnership with Opendorse as a way to "modernize the collegiate model."
On Thursday, a number of Clemson football players announced initial NIL deals, including star receiver Justyn Ross and Rencher, who said the support from the school is critical in finding success in the new NIL era.
"The fact that you can make money doesn't equate to you making money," Rencher said. "Even for the first-round guys, there's money to be made, but you still have to put together a marketing plan. That's going to be the biggest thing."