Syracuse announced Dino Babers is staying as coach for another year, and the news wasn’t all that surprising. Despite the depressing three-game skid to end the season, the Orange being 5-4 seemed to lock in Babers for ’22. The improvement from last season was obvious, and with a few minor strokes of luck the Orange would’ve had 6-7 wins this season.
The Orange administration was likely trying to find reasons to keep him. Spending money is not an SU strength, and while it’s unclear how much it would’ve cost to fire Babers and hire someone else, it was cheaper to keep him. No program in the Power 5 has been as patient as the Orange, watching Babers lead a losing season in 5 of the last 6 years. But delusions of grandeur are not what SU football does. Six wins and people are pretty darn happy, no matter how long it takes to get there.
But the pipeline to winning in college football is talent. Georgia, Alabama, Cincinnati and Michigan aren’t the top 4 teams based on coaching alone. Each program has elite players. So how can Syracuse rise out of the losing “logjam,” as John Wildhack put it? Recruit better. And that’s one thing Babers hasn’t proven.
Tommy DeVito was his greatest recruiting victory, but we all know how that panned out. Will another 4-star prep QB choose the Orange after that messy ending? For the Class of ’22 Syracuse ranks dead last in the ACC, according to 247 Sports. SU is one of only 3 programs in the league without a 4-star player (joining Wake Forest and Duke).
For the Class of ’21, SU ranked 13th in the ACC. In ’20, they were 10th. In ’19, they were 11th. In ’18, SU rated 10th with the help of rare 4-star Trill Williams. In ’17, SU was 11th with DeVito. That’s 11, 10, 11, 10, 13, 14 in 247 rankings. The ratings are actually going down the last two seasons.
Class rankings are not the gospel. They are an indicator, but not the end all. Sean Tucker was a 3-star recruit and every program in America would take him. Duce Chestnut was only a 3-star player, but has already shown flashes of stardom. Sometimes a player who “only” goes to Syracuse can have his star-rating lowered. But the issue is Babers hasn’t build a recruiting base in his 6 years at Syracuse. They’ve stayed mired near the bottom of the ACC, and 4-star kids are just as rare as when he first took over.
Some of this is the resources spent on the staff, and the recruiting budget. Again, SU notoriously does not have deep pockets nor a fertile recruiting ground. Wildhack said this week SU will commit more money to recruiting this offseason. Let’s hope so. Because the ugly facts are recruiting has not improved under Babers (although player development may have). Babers enthusiastic persona and postgame pep talks produce viral moments but not better talent. SU has put players into the NFL under Babers watch, but recruiting and the transfer portal need to produce bigger dividends. If it stays as is, SU will be stuck in the logjam of losing.