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Dabo Swinney Named the American Heart Association’s 2016 Paul “Bear” Bryant

Coach of the Year

On Wednesday, January 11, 2017, the Toyota Center was the setting for the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 31st annual Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards honoring the nation’s top college football coaches. The seven esteemed finalists were: Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan), James Franklin (Penn State), Clay Helton (USC), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), and Dabo Swinney (Clemson).


The event kicked off with an awards dinner during which each of the seven finalists was introduced along with his career achievements. Throughout dinner, the AHA presented inspiring videos on the importance of heart health and held its live and silent auctions to raise funds for heart research. After dinner came the awards ceremony, which was broadcast live on FOX College Sports. Each honored finalist gave an emotional and heartfelt welcome speech expressing the significance of the award and shared uplifting stories of how Paul “Bear” Bryant played a key role in their lives.


The building excitement could be felt throughout the entire arena in the moments before the winner was announced. For this crowded room of football fans, it was like being at the Super Bowl, waiting for the final play of the game, then discovering whether or not, in those last defining seconds, your team has won. Breath was held, fists were clenched, and ears were focused on the announcer’s voice, when at last coach Dabo Swinney was called to the stage as the 2016 winner. The excitement was palpable as applause erupted from every corner of the building and each esteemed finalist, as well as all guests, rose from their chairs to acknowledge the importance of this defining moment.


“It’s special to be back here and to win this trophy tonight, and I’m thankful to the Bryant family and the American Heart Association,” Swinney said in his acceptance speech. “Coach Bryant, to me, is one of the greatest givers and that’s how we should be measured—by how much we give, not what we take. Coach Bryant was such a great giver, and he was my hero.”


Coach Swinney is the first coach in college football history to win back-to-back Paul “Bear” Bryant awards. During his humble acceptance speech, he thanked all of his fellow nominees, the AHA, and the Bryant family, and, in one of the most touching moments of the evening, he also extended a passionate thank you to his wife, Kathleen, for her unwavering support. As well, Swinney had some valuable advice for youngsters entering college and eager to accomplish their dreams, telling them to be the best they can, to work hard, and to enjoy the journey.


The Bryant Awards also recognized 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Barry Alvarez, athletic director and former head coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Alvarez is responsible for revitalizing the Badgers’ football program during his coaching tenure from 1990 to 2005 and is by far the winningest coach in Wisconsin football history with a 119-74-4 record. He has led Wisconsin’s athletics department since 2004 and will continue to serve in the role until 2021. In his 13-year tenure, Wisconsin sports have won 56 conference titles and 14 national championships.


For a recap of the fun, be sure to check out and join the conversation by following #bryantawards and


About the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards

While the Coach of the Year Award has been an annual tradition since 1957, the AHA adopted and re-named the award in 1986 to honor Bryant, who died of a heart attack in 1983. The Bryant Awards have become a major fundraiser for the AHA, with many business and community leaders and sports figures annually lending support to the event. All funds raised from the Bryant Awards benefit AHA research, advocacy, and educational programs across the country aimed at the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and stroke—the number one and number five killers in the United States.


About the American Heart Association

The AHA is a non-profit organization in the United States devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke—the two leading causes of death in the world. It is the largest non-governmental funder of cardiovascular research in the country and has invested over $4 billion in research since 1949, second only to the federal government. The AHA teams with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. 


To learn more or to get involved, please call:

1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.

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