Syracuse Football: Winter is coming, but is the heat on Dino Babers?

Syracuse football, Dino Babers (Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse football, Dino Babers (Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports) /

I’ve finally reached the season finale of my 4-part series addressing issues I see fans having with the Syracuse football team this upcoming season, and this column centers on head coach Dino Babers.

You can read the last three, which include wider receiver Taj Harris, the offensive line and the quarterback situation by clicking the links I put on each one.

I saved the best, and also one of the most important topics for last, which is Babers and the struggle within the fan base to decide his fate before the season starts or dictate the exact definition of success in order for him to stay head coach. Is his seat hot or are we making too big of a deal out of a season we’d all rather soon forget and a season before that many had high expectations for but didn’t go as we hoped?

You ever post something on social media or say something and the instant response is a negative one from someone? Like when you try to talk about Syracuse football and someone simply replies with, “Fire Babers”. Yeah, this isn’t a fire Babers column…this is in fact a show of support for him…for now.

I’m constantly hearing fans and media asking what will define success in 2021 after last season and the truth is, I don’t know. Many scenarios could play out that impact the final record so I think it’s hard to say “bowl game or fired”. It’s not just “Coach speak” to say that either…I think you truly do have to take it one play and one day at a time and see not only the record but what led to it.

A poor 2021 campaign will put the heat on Syracuse football head coach Dino Babers.

I do think a championship or a bowl game should absolutely be a goal (I freaking love in fact that Chris Elmore said his goal is the National Championship) but to state that they need to win “X” amount of games or he’s gone does not take into account that many variables out of our control could impact this.

What if Tommy DeVito AND Garrett Shrader miss significant games due to injury (although I think JaCobian Morgan is a quality player to fill in if needed)? What if a couple of those losses are by a point or two on a last-minute play made in a way nobody could have stopped it or a bad call by referees?

What if Covid becomes a factor this season yet again leading to missed games, canceled games or even guys opting out? What if Syracuse loses one of their out-of-conference games they’re supposed to win but then turns around and wins 3-4 ACC games? What happens if Coach Babers said, “Fine, we have to win 6 games to be successful” just to appease those constantly asking, only to win 5 and lose the last game of the season in overtime?

These aren’t just excuses…these are real-life circumstances that can impact a season and the livelihood of this staff and players. This is why many experienced coaches will tell you they take it one game at a time and focus solely on that game.

Yes, I’m a homer and an optimist but that is why I’m able to look at this and be open-minded to the possibility that anything good or even preparing myself for the bad as well is possible and not hold someone’s feet to the fire. When it’s December and the season ends, we can look back then and decide if this program is on the right track or does it need to go in a different direction.

I met Coach Babers once when he first got to Syracuse football as he was doing his radio show at Hotel Syracuse with Matt Park. I shook his hand, he complimented my SU fedora and I wished him well during his tenure here at Syracuse. We don’t have a friendship…we don’t have a bond…I’m just a Syracuse football fan who likes how he leads and the energy he provides to this program.

I’m a fan who wants what is best for this program and minus last season, I see no reason why Coach Babers still can’t be the man to lead us to victories and a program of pride. By the way, one bad season should not a career make, just like you shouldn’t be fired from your job because of a bad couple of days at work if your boss truly believes you’re capable of better work through patience and understanding.

But that’s the thing, right…patience. I’ve talked in the past about comparisons between Coach Babers and Coach Mac, and Coach Mac had a patient AD that gave him time and that led to success, including the 1987 season which Syracuse football fans still reminisce about today. We want instant gratification and perfection now or else we are just making excuses for ineptitude…or so I am told.

Maybe we wait a bit before we just give up and try to bring in yet another new head coach who may struggle to win even half the games Coach Babers has so far and maybe our patience will pay off. And then what? Well, we can hire another coach and another and another every few years. Consistency and patience will help with recruiting as well as play on the field, because why would a player commit to the program if they fear the guy recruiting him won’t last his time at Syracuse?

I want what’s best for the program and if I thought it was all doom and gloom and we had multiple 1 or 2-game win seasons, even the optimist in me would sing a different tune but for now, I’m singing Coach Babers praises because I see things I like in the program and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I see he addressed areas of concern from last season and I think he’s out to prove he can win.

I’d also like to remind people that recruiting those 5-star talents you think he should be loaded with isn’t always that easy when you consider CNY weather (although minus driving in snowy conditions, I love the colder climate myself), Syracuse University enrollment standards, and while the program does have nice facilities, many “football” schools that do attract star recruits have better facilities.

Hey, if you can convince some big beneficiary to endow several millions of dollars to enhance that and match that up with the Dome, that’s a start. I’d also add that I think with the NIL passed finally, a top recruit like that might fare pretty well in the open market where there aren’t any pro teams to compete against.

So how about before we continue to hammer the staff and administration to nail down a definition for success or make plans to fire Coach Babers, we instead go into 2021 hoping for the best?

We keep our minds open and hearts a flutter that maybe, just maybe a coach with Dino Babers-like experience bounces back and doesn’t accept last year as an indication of how his tenure is, but rather it was just a fluke where circumstances beyond his control impacted the team and led to a less than desirable result.

Let’s get ready to play Ohio and see what happens and then take it game by game and when the wintertime does arrive and the season is over, we can then discuss the expectations and what we saw.

Let’s pack the Carrier Dome again to show Syracuse football our support, tune into our TVs and radios, put on our SU jerseys and other game-day gear and approach this season not with a whisper of doubt but with a bang the likes of which this program once saw and became The Loud House, where home-field advantage was defending our house!



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