Christmas came early for the Syracuse Orange on Wednesday evening.
With the announcement that Dino Babers had agreed to a contract extension, a combined collective sigh of relief and a giddy yelp of joy emanating from central New York could probably be heard down south, through the Plains and certainly as far west as Los Angeles. Move over Kris Kringle, for right now it’s Director of Athletics John Wildhack delivering the coveted gifts around these parts.
Per the school’s press release, Babers “will continue to lead the Orange program for seasons to come.” Naturally, a vague statement from SU—which sometimes can stand for Soviet Union given how it likes to craft messages—accompanied the news. As we all know, Syracuse is a private school and not bound to certain requirements demanded of state institutions. Meaning, in a few years from now, via a tax statement likely, we’ll all have a better understanding of the inner workings of Babers’ deal.
The details, though, really aren’t that important anyway.
Well, that’s not totally true.
If Syracuse has made Babers one of the highest paid coaches in the ACC, maybe elevating him to being one of the 20 or so highest paid in the country, well then that’s of great important. It’s just speculation here, but if the school put its money where its coach is, then it shows how truly committed it is to its program, to the fans.
A shame really that the administration won’t get up on the pulpit and lay out how it kept Babers, be it through paying him and maybe even his assistants. That Wildhack won’t grab the mic a la The Rock and yell, “Yes we did! We #PAIDDINO! We’re not talking like we’re big time, we are big time! IF YA SMELL WHAT THE OOOOOOOOOOORANGE IS COOKING!”
Instead, we’ll all hear some whispers or read some tweets and continue to wonder about the contract.
Oh well. The deal could be for four years or six years and it might be worth $12 million or even more in total value. Who knows?
Besides, years on the dotted line might not mean much to the cynics who question how “long term” a long-term deal in the world of athletics can be now. Setting aside Jim Boeheim, an alien chemically crafted on a different planet in order to coach at Syracuse until Buddy Boeheim’s grandsons officially graduate. Other than the obviously extraterrestrial Boeheim, though, lengthy contracts probably don’t have the same feel as maybe they had years ago.
In other words, stuff happens. Not to go Grinch during this holiday season, but depending on buyout clauses, other schools will still come poking around, trying to kick the tires. Dreams and dream jobs can change. There are also always other potential issues, like health concerns, attrition, scandals and the like. An ironclad contract still leaves a lot to the unknown.
But here’s what we do know right now. Wildhack and company recognized what it had in Babers and it went after him. It had a mission that Wildhack says really started to get going back in November: get everyone on board and extend Babers.
Years back, with a completely different leadership group, Syracuse let Doug Marrone become so disenfranchised that he actively shopped himself around. Granted, Marrone jumped up to the NFL, this isn’t apples to apples, but the old way of doing things at SU allowed for that entire situation to happen. This time around, with a clearly more-than-competent head coach, Syracuse, maybe more competent than it has been athletically in some time, made moves.
Secondly, Babers said “yes” to Syracuse football. Not just once when he first signed on in December of 2015, but when he then re-upped with the Orange. Having a goal, realistic or otherwise, of being here for some time. And in both instances, he had more than a few other suitors. Maybe things will change in the not-so-distant future, but for this time, Syracuse might not just be a stepping-stone school after all. Instead of waiting out the year and seeing if other Power 5 Conference members to lined up, Babers showed faith in himself, in the program and in Syracuse University. That’s not a this-time-of-the-year miracle, but it’s also something not to be glossed over.
In all honesty, when was the last time Syracuse football had a true sense of stability? It’s had some peaks, and plenty of valleys, and it has had some momentum and even a little excitement. Within the last 15 or so years, there’s no question that it hasn’t had a rock-solid foundation that it appears to have now with Babers locked in.
This contract, with whatever is written on it, has to be considered a holiday present for fans. Babers is sticking around for probably longer than most thought just a few months back. To paraphrase the famous Clark Griswold’s cousin Eddie, it’s a gift that will keep on giving. For a while anyway.