A couple weeks back, the Syracuse Orange football team crept into the national rankings with a 6-2 record and the fan base seemed to enter that all-too-familiar split personality that simultaneously expects College Football Playoff berths and expects Dino Babers to get whisked away on a golden chariot by the Big 12 or SEC school of his choosing.
When things are bad, being a Syracuse football fan can beat the will right out of you. It makes you feel like we’re locked in a dungeon for committing crimes we didn’t know we had committed. Who did we piss off to deal with all this losing? Why are we destined to do it forever?
And so, when things are good, we have no idea what to do with the energy it creates. We win a couple games and all of a sudden we can’t help ourselves from thinking about ACC titles and playoff berths. We not only talk ourselves into beating undefeated juggernauts but we start to expect it even before it’s happened. When we come back down to earth, it feels like the ground is shifting beneath our feet once again, even though we’re still so far ahead of where any of us thought we’d be.
Give us a little success and we become chaos.
That’s especially true when it comes to Dino Babers. Short of some kind of criminal enterprise, Dino is going to win ACC Coach of the Year. He’s got Syracuse bowling for the first time since 2013 and oversaw the program’s best season since 2001. He’s also charismatic as hell and has proven he can turn around just about any program in three years at this point.
Age aside (he’s 57), he is the ideal candidate for a bigger college football program that needs to rebuild in a hurry and has a lot of money to burn.
And that was even true a few weeks ago when the Maryland job opened up and Babers was named to multiple shortlists. That panic started to set in for a lot of Orange fans, who took to the internet to explain all the reasons Dino shouldn’t take the job. Here’s what I said at the time:
if you’re putting your time and energy into convincing everyone why Dino Babers shouldn’t leave Syracuse for Maryland, you are spinning your wheels and missing the memo. This story hasn’t even started yet. And even if we make it through the 2019 offseason and Babers remains here, he’s going to be even higher on everyone’s list again next year.
Once this drumbeat starts, it very rarely ever stops. It usually only gets louder.
...If someone wants him bad enough, there’s nothing Syracuse can do about it. All the rationializations, all the arguments, all the justifications. Completely moot from the start.
And that’s all still true. All the pleading and explaining in the world won’t mean anything if a school like Texas Tech backs up the Brinks truck.
But I’ve got some good news: Dino Babers probably isn’t going anywhere this December and he will almost certainly be on the Syracuse sidelines come September. (Feel free to alert Freezing Cold Takes if this is not the case).
First and foremost, there aren’t that many great jobs expected to be out there this year. Kansas has already hired Les Miles and USC is retaining Clay Helton (for some reason). If we assume Jeff Brohm is going to Louisville, that’ll open up Purdue. Otherwise, we’re looking at Texas Tech and North Carolina as the only other likely gigs to consider, not including shockers like Lincoln Riley leaving Oklahoma for Cleveland or Urban Meyer retiring at Ohio State (and even the latter job is likely going to Ryan Day or Luke Fickell already).
Second, Dino’s no dummy. He’s right in the middle of a six-year deal and he’s made good on his promises and potential. He’s got a fat raise coming his way in the offseason from Syracuse. He’s also got a favorable 2019 schedule in a division that will still include two very down FSU and Louisville teams. He’s also handing the keys to “his guy,” Tommy DeVito, with a roster that will still have plenty of playmakers in a stadium made for speed. We’ve got a ways to go between now and next November but, on paper, Syracuse could be right back here once again. And then Dino isn’t just the guy who turned Syracuse around for a season. He’s the guy who really did turn the entire program around.
And that’s why Syracuse fans who don’t want to lose Dino Babers in 2018 should be absolutely terrified of losing him in 2019.
Because right now, he’s a name on a list. Next season, he’s probably going to be THE name on the list.
Chances are, a school like USC wouldn’t have hired Dino this year anyway. One year of success gets you a nice mention in the beat writer’s tweet but it doesn’t quite get you in the door. Sustained success at one of the nation’s most moribund football programs of the 21st century? That gets you in the door with a hearty hello and a firm handshake. So while it might make you feel better that the Trojans kept Helton on, think about what happens when USC under-performs again next year, they end up firing him, and they notice the guy closing in on 20 wins in two years at Syracuse.
Right now, Dino is the kind of guy that ADs are aware of while most of their fanbase is focused on shinier things. Next year, Dino will be the shinier thing.
As always, the lesson is for Syracuse fans to find a way to enjoy what’s happening right in front of them instead of worrying about what might happen next month or next year. May we be so lucky that other schools want to poach our head coach, and may we be even luckier that he decides he’d rather stick it out here and then stick it to them in bowl games.