With the third straight 3 point loss taking place on Friday night, the Syracuse Orange are 3-4 on the season, with bowl eligibility continuing to look further out of reach. The decisions of head coach Dino Babers continue to be at the center of the post-game discourse, and for some, the time to move on from Babers has arrived. However, the Split Zone Duo podcast dropped an interesting nugget of news regarding Syracuse and Babers in their discussion of coaches on the hot seat.
Cuse fans will want to listen to the most recent @SplitZoneDuo. @38Godfrey confirms what a lot of us at @NunesMagician have speculated: Dino’s probably getting another year b/c Cuse can’t afford the buyout from the 2018 extension. https://t.co/2TEk8x8VCM— Andy Pregler (@acpregler) October 14, 2021
For those that don’t want to listen to the full segment, hosts Richard Johnson and Alex Kirshner bemoan the lack of identity of this Syracuse team, and when put to Steven Godfrey, the college football reporter says that he’s heard Dino will at least get 2022 to right the ship as the athletic department cannot afford to buy out Babers.
With that additional information, I decided to look at what we know and don’t know about Babers’ contract to try and figure out what the buyout amount actually is.
What we know
In December of 2018, Dino Babers signed a multi-year extension after leading the Orange to a 9-3 regular season, losing to that year’s ACC Title Game Participants by a combined 10 points, with both games on the road. The Orange would go on to win the Camping World Bowl to complete the program’s first 10 win season since 2001, finishing ranked 15th in the country.
As part of that extension, Dino Baber’s base salary was increased to $3.5 million from $2.1 million. We also know there was at one point in time a graphic posted that indicated that extension ran through the 2024 season, though it was pretty quickly deleted by SU. For the purpose of this exercise, we’re going to operate as if Dino’s contract runs through 2024.
What we don’t know
We don’t know the amount of bonuses Babers receives year to year, as that is not part of the US Today information available. When Babers took the Orange to the Camping World Bowl, his final compensation was $3.2 million, which means that with a base of $2.1 million, the bonus pool was $1.1 million.
This is important because we don’t actually know the buyout structure of the current contract. All contracts have some buyout number, but what that number is varies from contract to contract. If a coach as most of the leverage in negotiating, the buyout can be the full base plus all bonuses over the remaining years of the deal. In other cases, if the school wishes to ward off other schools from poaching their coach, the buyout can exceed that number, or be a set number much like soccer release clauses. Either way, we don’t know exactly what kind Syracuse and Babers agreed upon.
Our best guess
Based off Steven Godfrey’s revelation that the number is “too high” for the Orange, the number is not insignificant. If the full base of Babers’ salary through 2024 needs to be bought out, the number would be just over $10.5 million. A more conservative estimate would be that the buyout amount is 50% of the remaining owed over the length of the deal, which would be $5.25 million. The best guess is that the real number is somewhere between those two figures.
The other big expenditure
The reality is that buying out Babers is not the only thing needed to take into financial consideration for a coaching switch. Unless Syracuse was to promote from within or hire a coach already fired or otherwise unemployed, they would have to pay that coach’s buyout clause. This would be along with the other bonuses that come along with signing on as Orange head coach that are not uncommon to lure more appealing candidates along. For example, if Syracuse wanted to hire former offensive coordinator and former Babers assistant Sean Lewis, the athletic department would have to buyout his contract that was just extended through 2025 and reportedly pays him around $2 million over the life of the contract.
I want to reiterate, this is all insanely speculative. This is based off what is publicly available and what we’ve heard/seen about other coaches in similar situations. Reading everything that’s out there, it sure seems like John Wildhack would have to really want to move on from Dino Babers to make a coaching change, as he would have to justify millions in spending that the University has openly said is not available.