There’s no guarantee Dino Babers is the cure to what ails the football program. But he sure believes a lot of the things I believe about Syracuse. I had him on my radio show this week (evenings on the Score 1260 in CNY). And for one, he’s not thrilled with the Notre Dame/MetLife series he inherited. He joked and laughed, “Somehow coincidentally we play Notre Dame every year,” when I asked him about the tough schedule and if it’s an annoyance.
“Anytime you play Notre Dame, it’s a national story. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at Syracuse, Texas A&M, USC – Notre Dame (has) a national following. Everybody knows that. It’s hard to get around that. It’s always exciting playing those guys. We’ll go down there and we’ll play them in MetLife and we’ll go play them in an NFL stadium in New York City and those guys will get an opportunity to see us and that’s great. But the next couple of times that they’re on the schedule, I’d like to see them in the Carrier Dome. I think that’d be great for our fans to have an opportunity to see a football team with a tradition like that here in Syracuse, New York.”
He put a good spin on it, but you could tell this is not ideal. Yes, there’s a benefit to being in NYC and national TV. But not when you play in a division where FSU and Clemson are on the table every year, and you’re trying to build back your program.
“We’ve got a lot of Notre Dame match-ups. It seems like they’re the relatives that always come to visit in the summertime. They’re coming back again. We get an opportunity to play those guys a lot. But again, it’s high-risk, high-reward. They’re going to play us, we’re going to start to get a feel for them, they’ll start to get a feel for us. But as your big brother constantly punches you in the chest, punches you in the chest, punches you in the chest, eventually you grow up and you realize how to handle that punch – and sometimes even deliver a punch yourself.”
He also touched on how playing indoors gives SU a recruiting advantage. He pointed out there are no Northeast schools that can guarantee they never have to play in bad weather. He’s absolutely right. Outside of a sporadic November road trip to Pitt, Boston College or perhaps Virginia Tech and Louisville, Cuse players can avoid any bad weather. This season SU will play one bad weather game: at Pitt on Thanksgiving weekend.
I’ve always maintained SU sticking to a smash mouth, grind it out offense with a physical defense was barking up the wrong tree (Marrone and Shafer). Open it up, throw 50 times a game, attract one QB that wants to put up big numbers to impress scouts, and let ‘er rip. Babers echoed those sentiments by saying, “We’ll get the jackrabbits” (meaning northeast speedy skill guys).
The Babers staff is trying to connect with high school kids by playing with social media, and making SU cool again. If Babers gets patience from the administration and fans, I believe he can have success.