As we prepare to start the Syracuse Orange football season we’ve had the Dino Babers hot seat talk seemingly squashed by the $10m buyout he’d be owed. That doesn’t mean that the Orange can afford another season without a bowl game. The buyout might keep Babers around into 2023 what will he be returning to?
All of you who read the comments here or listen to local sports radio know that Orange fans have lost their belief because the evidence hasn’t been there since 2018. Syracuse showed a lot of fight and heart on the field last season but Dino’s decisions didn’t deliver enough wins. It was gutsy to switch quarterbacks but would the Rutgers game have been different if Shrader had gotten the nod in camp? Would the team have found their stride sooner and gotten over the hump against Florida State or Wake Forest?
We’ll never know that and this isn’t about what has happened but what is ahead of Syracuse. Continuity in the program does have value for a private Northeast school without a major local recruiting pipeline. However another losing season would make it easier for up-and-coming coaches like Tony White or Jason Beck to seek new opportunities.
The Orange once again have players drawing NFL attention and it would be a shame to waste the final seasons of Tucker, Williams, Jones and Bergeron without a post-season visit. While their careers won’t be determined by Syracuse’s won-loss record, being part of a successful season will give them and others more opportunity to stand out to the professional scouts (and this includes the XFL and CFL as well).
If Babers can’t lead the Orange to a winning season, it’s not just his job status in limbo. College football realignment leaves Syracuse and other ACC schools hanging out on the ledge of the P5 penthouse. Right now things seem alright with the ACC Grant of Rights down below as a safety net but if the winds of change suddenly shift what happens then is anyone’s guess. Syracuse brings a solid National brand but if the major programs are struggling is it enough?
John Wildhack didn’t hire Dino Babers or Jim Boeheim but he’s the man who extended both of their contracts. He’s the person responsible for providing them (and the other coaches) with the tools for their programs to succeed. A lot of that is made easier if Syracuse is generating the revenue close to the top P5 programs. We’ve seen the Dome improvements and the investment in football support positions and we hope to see a new football operations center in the near future, but will that be enough?
Wildhack needs Babers to win this season. He needs the football team to overcome one of the nation’s toughest schedules and make it to the revamped ACC schedule model. Not only would it allow him to avoid the buyout question but to avoid having to divert resources from the Lally project into a buyout and a staff overhaul. When you talk about $10m to remove Babers we aren’t factoring in what it would cost Syracuse to lure a new head coach and give them a budget to be competitive in the ACC.
When we talk about packing the Dome and regaining the full advantage of “The Loud House” it’s not going to be about the opposing team. It’s going to be full when Syracuse fans are convinced that they will be coming to see a winning program. A full stadium, a program that competes and wins enough to earn a bowl bid, and a program with a national brand....that’s the type of program that keeps your school in the mix of this game of musical chairs that is college sports. Syracuse’s goal is to show they are a better option than other schools on the expansion radar...and maybe they should arrange some Doug’s Fish Fry deliveries to the SEC Headquarters.
Even if Syracuse won’t be playing for national championships in football in the near future, being in the game means you’ve got the money to keep other sports competitive. If you fall from that level will fan interest also fall off? With the money committed to the Dome upgrades it’s not a question that Syracuse wants to have to answer.