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Pros & Cons of Dino Babers as the Next Head Coach at Syracuse

Once reports started to surface Wednesday that Chris Ash had taken himself out of the running for the Syracuse job, Orange social media was aflutter. When these things are worded like this it’s usually for all parties to save face. Ash, an Ohio State assistant, would get to keep his rep in tact instead of publicly admitting he wasn’t the bride chosen for the ball. This while Dino Babers, the presumed choice, would get to continue trying to keep a relatively normal existence for the rest of this week. His Bowling Green Falcons have the MAC title game this weekend.

Yep, the tea leaves seem to read “Babers to Syracuse,” maybe by the end of the week. And how do we feel about that? Well, one thing many SU fans will admit is less than two weeks ago, Babers was an unknown commodity. But as the coaching search spin cycle runs on overdrive, he began to seem like a solid candidate. Today, if Coyle doesn’t hire him there will be a riot outside the chancellor’s house. It’s just how we flash mob these days.

What I Like: Offensive-mided, up-tempo guy. He brings the Baylor system with him, which is one of the most (if not the most) exciting in the country. I’ve railed about this forever, and apologies for still thwacking that dying horse. But the Carrier Dome doesn’t have to be a weakness. It can be a strength. Use the controlled climate to your advantage. Make it a laboratory. Experiment with quirky, crazy, high-flying offense. You play in the ACC, inside a Dome. You may only have 1-2 bad weather games all year (at Pitt? At BC?). Recruit athletes who want to throw and catch a lot of passes. It’s the mood of college football, it excites a downtrodden fan base, it gives you an identity.

Here’s a good story by Bruce Feldman on Babers. A nugget that’ll make you warm and fuzzy: “Babers’ Falcons blasted Big Ten foe Maryland 48-27 after losing a 59-30 shootout at Tennessee, where they rolled up 557 yards. After two weeks, BGSU is fourth in the nation in yards per game (625 ypg).” When you put up 48 on Randy Edsall, you’re okay in our book.

I like his previous head coaching experience too. He’s been the head man now at two stops, Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. As much as we all liked Scott Frost (and maybe to a lesser extent Ash), there’s a risk in getting a guy at a Power 5 school and asking him to learn how to run a program.

I like that he developed at least one NFL quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, who won the FCS player of the year award.

What I don’t like: Always a bit of a precarious position when you didn’t get your first choice (and lost it to an 0-12 AAC school). We assume Frost was Mark Coyle’s guy. I’ve spoken to people who insist Coyle always targeted him, but at the end of the day there were some hangups in the contract parameters (buy-out conditions, etc) since the assumption is Frost will eventually (maybe quickly) move on to a better job. If Babers is the next head coach of the Orange, was he Coyle’s second choice? Did others turn down SU? Did Ash bail after talking to Coyle? Or did SU tell Ash they were going with Babers?

It also took him awhile to finally get a head coaching job. He was 50 years old when he took over EIU. Now, maybe other ADs were small-minded, too conservative, too prehistoric, to see Babers potential. But when Frost and Ash and other assistants are getting jobs by their mid-30s, it’s fair to ask why it took Babers so long. Then again, I don’t really care. If he’s at Syracuse for 10 years, that means he’s winning (and he’s only 64 by then). If he leaves to take an SEC job in 4 years, it means he’s winning. Essentially, winning at any age is the bottom line. And Art Briles (his mentor) saw the same prejuduce. Briles was seen as a high school wack job for a long time, then got the Houston gig. But he didn’t land at a Power 5 team until he was 52 years old.

He has zero ties to the Northeast. He’s a west coast guy who’s dotted the map as a coach, but the closest he ever came to ‘Cuse was one year as a Pitt running backs coach. Ideally you’d want someone who can win the trust of important high school coaches. But ultimately, Frost didn’t have any open doors here either and we all would’ve danced like Otto at midnight madness had he been hired.

I’ve had Babers on my show (when he was at EIU) and he seemed energetic and thoughtful. If he’s the guy at SU, I’m on board.

Posted: Damon Amendolara

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