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Syracuse Football: 20/24 vision?

The details in Dino Babers’ contract aren’t the point for Orange fans looking for security.

Syracuse v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Do you remember when the number 44 was “retired” and then “un-retired,” but was not really available for Syracuse Orange football players to actually wear in games? That was a messy time. Although, it might now be officially settled. Right?

How about another one: do you remember when Syracuse first started discussing its plan to renovate the Carrier Dome? And how the plans, with their start and end dates, have all been fluid at best?

Can a player, either on the team currently or an incoming freshman, wear a jersey adorned with a number worn by some of the greatest who ever played the game of football?

Will the Dome get rid of the troughs in the bathroom? Will it have air conditioning? How much will the dang project cost?

Questions that strangely linger for far too long.

The answers, in all likelihood, would best be summarized as such: you’ll know when you know. This is Syracuse we’re talking about here, and despite having one of the best communications schools in the country, the old university ain’t exactly good at communicating sometimes.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

So it is of little surprise that Dino Babers, head coach of the football program with a game this coming fall that is already sold out, has a little mystery surrounding his contract extension. Being a private university and all, Syracuse doesn’t have to release certain information, like deals with its coaches. For example, during the initial announcement back in December, all that could be gleaned was that the head football coach was staying on and that he and administration were pretty happy about the situation.

Most experts and fans figured the extension was probably good for five or six years — not many people could guess at the money involved.

It was another tweet last week, four months after the contract-extension declaration, that gave everyone a potentially better idea on the length of the deal. An innocuous post attempting to hype the university, the football program and Babers to recruits and to the fan base. As we all know, it indicated Babers had his “contract extended through 2024.” A pretty big and probably welcomed piece of news to Orange fans.

As John wrote: “If you want long-term stability to be the message (and they do), just seems like a very short statement of ‘yeah, he’s here through at least 2024’ accomplishes that without giving away much else.”

Of course, that was written after the tweet was taken down and replaced with a more generic message about how Babers had signed a “long term contract extension.” The school, in its “protect the house” ethos, walked back any discussion of Babers and the year 2024. Athletic Director John Wildhack earlier this week spoke in cliches when addressing his football coach’s future. Terms like “sticking around” or “long term” were thrown about. As if mentioning the date the contract runs out was the equivalent to dropping F bombs.

All par for the course, though, for SU. It doesn’t just hold on tightly to information, it clutches news with both fists. It seemingly takes certain facts out back with a shotgun and a shovel.

Exactly who will be judging the “44-ness” of players?


How much will the entire Dome project cost again?


What’s up with Babers’ contract?

The thing is...

The truly remarkable part about any of those unanswered questions is that they’re being asked in the first place.

Whether you agree that number 44 should be up in the rafters, you can’t deny that move made some 14 years back has been a source of consternation in the Orange universe. And don’t even get fans started on the issues with the Dome. Both of those old debate-fodders have been complaints for far too long.

Now? You may or may not see a 44 running all over the turf someday soon. You might get to watch that player from the comfort of an actual seat, not steel bleacher, while enjoying some refreshing AC and scrolling your phone with semi-decent WiFi.

The messages have been bumbled like a Greg Robinson goal-line play call. But if the thought is what counts, then Syracuse deserves a lot of credit.

NCAA Football: Camping World Bowl-West Virginia vs Syracuse Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

That goes doubly for whatever the university doled out for Babers. His was a fairly hot name this past fall and early winter, with college-football insiders speculating that he wasn’t long for Central New York. Those reporters and professional guessers might still be right, eventually. But the fact that Syracuse was able to negotiate an extension for a coach it didn’t want to get away should be comforting.

The fine print could include the year 2024. It might be off by a year or two one way or the other. Regardless, Wildhack and company gave their coach enough to want to remain as the coach. If this was two, three, or more years ago, that might not have been the case. This time around, fans are still kind of in the dark, but there’s a flicker of light out there, too.

Plus, and this isn’t something to gloss over, Syracuse football, with its surprisingly shrinking allotment of season tickets and potential preseason top-25 ranking, has an excitement and security attached to it. To John’s point, the football program has been searching for stability for the last 20 years. Paul Pasqualoni was probably too steady of a coach, and his replacement, GERG, was more shaky than the fault lines of his native California. Then there were (Saint) Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer, both here and then POOF gone.

There were some wins and high points, but there was much losing. Antipathy mixed with ambivalence as fans probably became used to not recognizing their team, and then not bothering to watch it altogether.

A nightmare that could certainly happen again. Should Babers follow the siren song of a school like USC, then Syracuse...Never mind. We’ve down that road too many times. That’s nothing Orange fans want to think about. They know it’s not perfect at Syracuse on a lot of levels. Not to mention, Babers’ potentially leaving is a fate that any contract isn’t going to stop anyway.

Instead, fans should be living in the moment while being cautiously optimistic for the future. Weird advice when it comes to Orange football fans. But what matters is that Syracuse has Babers and Babers has Syracuse. For one year, four years, or (gasp) six years longer. It’s reason enough to finally leave those old memories and their never-ending questions in the past, where they belong.