By Chad Bonham
BCS Semifinal Game: Clemson 37, Oklahoma 17 (December 31, 2015)
Pep rallies have been a part of the college football culture since there was such a thing as college football. Coaches, players, cheerleaders, boosters, administrators, and fans gathering together inside a gymnasium or stadium is commonplace and serves as a rite of passage for programs striving for prominence.
And sometimes it gets interesting.
That’s because there are colorful figures like Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney around who can take a once predictable staple and turn it into something even bigger.
Such was the case on December 6, 2015. While watching together on the big screen at Memorial Stadium, the Tigers had learned that it was the top seed in the BCS Playoffs following a 13-0 season that included an ACC Championship. So Swinney decided to celebrate with 30,000 fans at Memorial Stadium with a pep talk and pizza.
“It is Sunday,” he reminded the crowd, “so I’m gonna give you a little word.”
No one was surprised at what came next as Swinney quoted one of his favorite Bible verses:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
“This team has not grown weary,” Swinney continued after a rousing applause. “They have stayed the course. They have overcome all kinds of obstacles. This is our season of harvest, but it’s just getting going.”
Swinney has long been noted for his interspersing of faith and football. Bible verses are prominently displayed in his office and around the team facility. A Bible sits on his desk and he uses passages and stories from the good book, as he calls it, during team meetings. While on recruiting trips, Swinney often talks about prayer and refers to the Bible. In fact, most Clemson players can readily recite their coach’s absolute favorite:
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
Just like it had throughout the 2015 season, Clemson did just that with a lopsided victory against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Orange Bowl. The Tigers, however, were stopped short of its goal in the national championship game where Alabama won an exciting shootout, 45-40.
Win or lose, Swinney continues to use key moments in the spotlight to highlight his beliefs. One such opportunity came amid the controversial National Anthem protests that began early in the 2016 NFL season. When asked what he thought about players kneeling or raising their fists during the patriotic song, Swinney returned to the Bible and paraphrased two of its commandments.
“It says, ‘Love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul,’” he told reporters. “The second one is, ‘love your neighbor as you’d love yourself….’ If we all lived by that in this country, we wouldn’t have near the problems we have.”
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Lauren Nelson; LambeauLeap80)