New Syracuse Orange football coach Dino Babers has shown himself to be a talkative character. From holding court at ACC Football Kickoff, to his regular derision of grapes, to mocking yours truly for not being able to deal with weather anymore, he’s quickly made himself the face of the program.
As Syracuse.com’s Stephen Bailey pointed out today, however, that also means he has the last (and many times, only) word on the narrative about the program.
Bailey’s story focuses in on offensive tackle Omari Palmer being unable to discuss other players on the line, with Palmer mentioning team instructions around not sharing too much with media. Based on Fan Fest, which ended up a closed-door affair like the other scrimmages this summer, it’s no surprise that Babers wants to keep everything close to the vest.
This a coach that has no physical playbook, after all.
Last year, we derided Scott Shafer and his staff for closing off media and creating a “them vs. us” narrative that made enemies of the very press covering the team. This year, Babers is closing off media in some regards (staff access, media attendance at scrimmages), but opening up in others. Look on the Syracuse football Twitter page, and you’ll find plenty of player interviews about the offense — which are welcome, even if delivered as the company lines around speed, aggression and smart football.
So what’s the difference?
In my eyes, last year was about closing ranks to shut down the narratives the staff did not push themselves (“3-0! 24 years!”). For 2016, it’s about controlling things from a competitive standpoint and allowing the Orange a fresh start this fall. Opponents don’t know what they’re getting from this team in the new system, and they won’t so long as SU hasn’t played a game. Babers would prefer the results do the talking, but isn’t telling the media to be quiet. He’s simply telling them (“us”) to be patient.
Bailey’s piece describes how frustrating that can be when you’re looking to cover a new regime and can only gain access to the head coach, and not his assistants. Or how players are limited in what they can and can’t share about the team’s various new developments — all of which fans and media are anxious to hear more about.
From a coverage standpoint, yes, it is. But from a competitive standpoint, I DO get it. And at least there’s a reason this time around, as Babers looks to protect his strategic advantage for as long as possible, rather than just keep press out for the sake of it.
The lid, which Bailey notes is currently “closed,” comes off tomorrow night, however. And then we truly get to see what Babers has up his sleeve for what should be an interesting season.