For Dino Babers, there was much to prove heading into the season. Three months later, saying he’s done exactly that would be fair, and on Tuesday, his efforts were recognized by the Associated Press.
After flipping consecutive 4-win seasons into nine wins, a national ranking and a trip to the Camping World Bowl in 2018, Babers shared AP ACC Coach of the Year honors with Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.
That’s not bad company considering Swinney has his No. 2-ranked Tigers readying for their fourth consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff.
If one only went by the numbers, he or she would obviously argue that this wasn’t Swinney’s award to share.
The only unbeaten team in the ACC, Clemson leads the conference in a number of offensive categories including points per game, yards per game and yards per play.
Defensively, it’s more of the same with Swinney’s Tigers allowing less points per game, first downs per game, and yards per play than anyone in the ACC.
The big takeaway here, however, is no matter who’s truly doing more with what they have, it’s pretty clear that compared to Swinney, Babers is doing it with less.
Just think about the situations these two coaches walked into at their respective schools.
When Swinney, a 6-year Clemson assistant, got his real start with the team in 2009 (took over during 2008 season), the Tigers had already been ranked in each season he’d been there. Sure, Clemson has reached new heights under Dabo, but they were still definitely an established program when he took the reigns.
On the flip side, when Babers got to Syracuse in 2016, it had been 15 years since the Orange cracked the AP Top 25.
Furthermore, when Babers coached Syracuse to its breakout season this year, it came off back-to-back years with a 4-8 record.
Also, let’s consider something else. A great coach puts his players in positions to succeed.
The Orange entered this season no longer with several key members of a defense in 2017 that was already shaky to begin with. As a result, many people had no idea what to expect from this year’s team, despite a common belief that it was bowl or bust for Babers in his third year.
What followed was exceeded expectations.
Syracuse’s defense took the ball away 30 times this season after just 12 in 2017, and talk about putting players in positions to succeed, safety Andre Cisco led the Orange in interceptions as a freshman.
Let us not forget that with two talented quarterbacks on the roster, Babers was also able to coach the Orange to success in the face of some controversy, which can never be easy.
Babers may have shared AP ACC Coach of the Year honors with Swinney this year, but perhaps the award will be completely his in the near future.
With Maryland announcing the hiring of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley as its next head coach on Tuesday night, Babers’ chances of staying on The Hill to build on this year’s breakout campaign look likely, at least for now.