Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he supports requests by Pac-12 players for revenue sharing in college football, as long as it’s tied to graduation.

Swinney has long been a critic of paying college players, but he said Thursday that, among other issues raised by a number of players from both the Big Ten and Pac-12 in open letters demanding changes in college football, he would be in favor of a plan that would offer financial payouts to players upon graduation.

“I’ve always been in favor of giving guys a lump sum,” Swinney said. “I just want to tie it to graduation.”

Swinney has been criticized for his outspoken stance against paying players outright; he once suggested he might move to the NFL if college players were paid. However, in recent years he has said that he would be open to payment for name, image and likeness rights, and he said Thursday that Clemson already has hired an outside firm that can help with marketing players should an NIL rule come to pass.

“We’re going to support our guys with the best possible resources that are out there,” Swinney said. “I’ve always said it’s the modernization of the scholarship. … I think there’s a lot of unknown right now, but there are a lot of positives that can come from it for players. We’re well-positioned to not just meet the needs, but to lead in whatever comes down the road.”

Swinney said he has encouraged his players to speak out about their concerns on other issues, including social justice reform, and he said he addressed health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic with players in June, assuring them that any players who chose to opt out of playing this season would retain their scholarships. Swinney said that, so far, no Clemson players have chosen opt out.

One player who won’t see action to start the season is defensive end Xavier Thomas, a former five-star recruit and one of the Tigers’ best defensive players. Thomas was among the nearly 50 Clemson student-athletes to test positive for COVID-19 this offseason, and Swinney said breathing issues as a result of the virus, along with a bout with strep throat and limited workout facilities while Thomas was home, will keep him off the field for now.

“He’s just nowhere near where he needs to be to play football,” said Swinney, who noted Thomas is about 15 pounds overweight at the moment.

Clemson plans to hold Thomas until the final games of the season to preserve a redshirt, Swinney said.

Thomas contracted COVID-19 while at home in Florida, according to Swinney, but the coach said a number of other players failed to take guidelines seriously enough when they first returned to campus in June, resulting in the outbreak of positive tests. Most players were asymptomatic, Swinney said, and only Thomas has had lingering effects. Sophomore receivers Frank Ladson and Joe Ngata were held out of Thursday’s practice — the first of camp for the Tigers — for “protocols,” according to Swinney, but are expected to return.

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