Clemson coach Dabo Swinney stands near the pinacle of college football success. He remembers, though, how it took more than just his vision to turn the Tigers into champions. 

Swinney remembers the 2010 season when Clemson lost at home to rival South Carolina, a bitter defeat in a 6-7 season. He walked down the hall of the football offices where his wife, Kath, was there to console him _ and share some news. 

"Terry Don is in your office," she said. 

Terry Don Phillips, Clemson's athletic director had gambled at hiring the so-called "coupon coach" back in 2008 and two years later, many fans believed Swinney was out of his depth. 

Phillips, Swinney recalled, was on the couch in the mostly dark room with his young coach certain he was there to deliver the news he was fired. 

"I know you're disappointed," Phillips told him. "But let me tell I'm more confident right now in this moment that you're the guy for this job than I was when I hired you."

"You just do whatever you need to do, continue to do things the way you've been doing and I believe with all my heart things are going to work out," Phillips continued.

Phillips hugged Swinney, then walked out.

"That's rare," Swinney said Wednesday. "But it was also very empowering to me."  

The next year, Clemson won its first Atlantic Coast Conference title in 20 years and began a run of six straight seasons of 10-or-more victories _ an unprecedented run in Clemson history. 

The Tigers will play No. 1 Alabama for the national championship in Tampa, Florida on Monday night. 

"You got to have some belief, you've got to have some vision in order to achieve anything great," Swinney said.