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John Wildhack Takes Victory Lap on Dino Gamble

Back in June, Syracuse Athletic Director John Wildhack declared that even after three losing seasons in a row with a combined record of 11-24, head coach Dino Babers was not on the hot seat. This three-year stretch came on the heels of a 10-3 campaign in 2018 and evidently bought Babers essentially eternal time as the Orange’s head man. Well, now SU is 5-0 and in contention in the ACC. While the tough part of the schedule is still to come, Wildhack credited everyone involved with the program for its success this year.

“The offseason was really good. Winter conditioning, spring ball, camp. That’s carried over into the fall,” Wildhack said. “It’s a credit to the entire staff. Not just the coaching staff. It’s the support staff. It’s strength and conditioning. It’s sports medicine. Our athletic training staff. Academic advising. Across the board. They all deserve credit for being 5-0.”

This wholeheartedly backs up what he said back over the summer when Babers had finished making his coaching changes and the roster was all but set.

“Dino’s not on the hot seat,” Wildhack said. “I’m really pleased with what we’ve done in the past six months, and I think it is a table setter for what we can accomplish in 2022 and beyond.”

Maybe it has something to do with Babers’ reported eight-figure level buyout from his contract, but the results have backed up these comments. It’s a little premature to make these comments when there is still a chance your team can miss a bowl game. But, that is highly unlikely and the Orange are 5-0 for the first time in 35 years, and that’s something worth celebrating.

Despite that, Wildhack knows that after the bye week the SU schedule becomes exponentially more difficult. There are three teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25, and three more that have the talent to be in there and have already been ranked already this season.

“There’s two ways to look at that.,” Wildhack said. “Is it a challenge? Yeah, but it’s also a tremendous opportunity. We put ourselves, and the team and staff, put themselves in that position to do something pretty special.”

So, the Orange are in a spot they have not been in for decades. The chance for a special season no one saw coming. While that may have been true in 2018, there were signs Babers’ squad was ready to break out despite going 4-8 in 2016 and 2017. The upset wins over Virginia Tech and Clemson were the breadcrumbs, and that led to the breakout that was Babers’ third year in the program. Now, after three down years after that special season, the 7th year head coach looks to have rebuilt what he tore down, and Wildhack’s comments from June look even better now than he could have ever hoped for at the time.

“I feel good about the trajectory of the program,” the athletic director said.

We’ll see what the trajectory is like around Thanksgiving after SU has finished its run of tough games, but for now, the ascension is still ongoing.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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