While Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama coach Nick Saban are aware of the narrative of fan fatigue that has surrounded their fourth straight matchup in the five years of the College Football Playoff era, neither is going to apologize for being here, Swinney said on Sunday morning.
"I mean, I'm not going to apologize for having a great team and a great program and a bunch of committed guys, and Coach Saban is not, either," Swinney said at the head coaches' final news conference before facing each other in the national championship game on Monday night. "I think the objective is to get the two best teams. That's kind of the way it is. If that's not best for college football, then why did we even do it?"
Alabama is 2-1 against Clemson in the CFP, beating the Tigers in the 2015 season national championship and the 2017 season semifinal. Alabama has been to the national championship in each of the past three seasons, winning two titles.
Both coaches were asked on Sunday whether their recent rivalry is good for the sport, considering the fact that it has denied other teams a chance to participate in the four-team field. Saban said the playoff "has probably minimized the number of teams that really get the same kind of positive self-gratification from going to bowl games in other venues that have been really unique to allowing players to get a lot of positives from having a good season."
"Now there's a lot of focus just on the playoffs," Saban added "and that becomes the target that every program and every team is sort of aiming for, and it's certainly the target that we have and a goal that we have as a program, and we're going to continue to have. I can't really speak for other teams or what the impact of college football really is, but it's my job and my responsibility to do the best job that we can for our team, our players, our program in terms of what it takes for us to be successful, and I guess that's what we'll continue to focus on."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the perceived Alabama-Clemson fatigue is "almost a created narrative" and said he had been thinking of other great repeated matchups in sports, noting the Celtics-Lakers in the 1980s as an example.