Just weeks ago, Syracuse fans received an early Christmas gift with the extension of Dino Babers contract. While the exact length, dollars and buyout details were not disclosed, SU athletic director John Wildhack says that the contract extends “well into the future.” Since then, Babers has made good on his new agreement by hauling in a productive recruiting class for 2019 and a statement bowl game win against West Virginia.
But today, one of Syracuse’s ACC foes made a move that has some Orange fans bracing for the worst. Miami head coach Mark Richt announced he is retiring from coaching after an illustrious head coaching career that spanned nearly 20 years at both The U and Georgia. That leaves a vacancy at one of the biggest programs in the sport and undoubtedly the top brand in the ACC. One of the immediate names that could have filled that void was now former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, but he just took the head coaching job at Temple.
With Babers coming off one of the best coaching jobs in the country, the question is certainly on the table as to whether he would bolt for one of college football’s best jobs if he got the call. The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman brought up Babers’ name as one of a handful of logical picks to replace Richt.
The obvious first obstacle in prying Babers away from SU would be the impending buyout that Miami and/or Babers would have to take on. Every buyout is different and the details of Babers’ are not public. A frequent buyout option is having to pay off the remaining salary. That likely puts SU in a good position because that would mean paying off an entire contract that hasn’t even started, which seems to be a lengthy one. But a program like Miami may be willing to absorb that given its likely desire to invest in the football program and return it back to its glory days.
Babers has had interesting buyouts in the past, including at Eastern Illinois. When he left to take the Bowling Green job, Babers buyout to repay his remaining salary of $173,000 had an expiration date. Instead of Babers paying it out, EIU and Bowling Green agreed to a basketball series that lasted three years and payed EIU $70,000, plus an additional $15,000 after the game’s completion. Although this payed less than half of what Babers would have owed, Eastern waived the remainder of the buyout debt.
In terms of what it would take to steal away Babers, it seems like a lot. But you have to imagine everything has a price, especially at one of the most prestigious programs in the country. Aside from buyout intricacies, Babers figures to have a pretty hefty price tag to drag him away from SU. Richt’s salary in his final year at Miami was about $4.1 million, which is nearly double what Babers was making in 2018. But that gap certainly closed in Babers’ latest contract extension. What would Miami be willing to pay Babers that would be so much substantially more than what SU is currently offering? Would the Hurricanes pony up major money for a head coach, albeit a proven one, who has only been a head coach for five years at the FBS level and just three at a Power Five program?
It’s a risk that is certainly worth exploring for Miami. For starters, The U has a notorious swagger to it. That is something that certainly translates through Babers’ charisma. Few, if any, coaches in college football fit that type of mold that Coral Gables aspires for.
Not only that, but Babers has had a long track record of success recruiting in Florida. This appeals for both Babers’ potential desire to coach there and Miami’s attraction to him. His four recruiting classes with SU have featured 21 players from Florida and the state has featured the most players in each Orange class under Babers. Having the in-state allure of a Miami program along with his success in the state feels like a match made in heaven for both parties.
Miami would have to dig deep into its pockets to pull away Babers from Syracuse, but it certainly has the allure and budget to make it happen.