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Syracuse Can’t Afford the Big Time After Tony White’s Departure

Dino Babers is the coach, but Tony White was the reason Syracuse took its massive step forward this season. His departure for Nebraska hurts a lot. White’s defense immediately improved when he arrived, and that side of the football is what kept SU in so many games this year. After a 7-5 season, how many of those wins were because of the defense? Virginia? NC State? Boston College? And in how many losses did the defense play good enough to win in? Clemson? Pitt?

White’s recruiting reputation is also very strong, and many (including the Fizz) are wondering if this will lead to SU players hitting the portal. Had White left to become a head coach somewhere, it would have been unfortunate but understandable. Promoting White to the head coaching job at Syracuse may be something fans want, but it’s not realistic. Babers doesn’t deserve to lose his job after a bowl season. And while White might have been more valuable to the program, Babers was ultimate the one who hired him and empowered him. Babers is also still owed a lot of money, so buying him out while also paying White is not on the table.

Ah yes, the money. It always comes back to that in college football, especially at SU’s level. The Orange have more money to pay for things like coaches salaries than say, the Group of 5 teams. They may even have more cash than some other lower tier Power 5 schools like Arizona State. But when it comes to a battle with Nebraska, Syracuse loses. Like it did this time.

Nebraska’s Big Ten television deal is worth far more than SU’s ACC contract. Most recent estimates show Big Ten schools making about $54M per year, while ACC schools earn approximately $33M. As new media deals get signed, the Big Ten schools will eventually earn nearly double that of the ACC. In 4 years, that will be $85M per Big Ten school versus $48M in the ACC.

When the Huskers hired Matt Rhule, they were also bidding against other schools. So surely they had to guarantee Rhule a certain number of dollars for his staff salaries. Most likely, they came up with a very healthy number. Rhule is still being paid by the Panthers as well, but he nabbed a contract worth $78M over 8 years. Next year he’ll make $5.5M just from the Huskers, and it will increase by at least million dollars a season every year after. On the back end, he could earn up to $12M per season. Babers salary is believed to be just shy of $4M this year. So now try to guess what each school’s coordinators earn.

White’s salary probably nearly doubled by taking the Nebraska job. He may have incentives that could lead him to tripling his salary in Lincoln. He’ll also have far deeper recruiting budgets and resources, and a chance to sell kids on playing in front of 85,000 fans every Saturday. It’s a no-brainer. And the money will always be there for the Huskers. They are desperate for a winner, and the defense ranked 100th in the country this season. Football makes that school run. It makes that state run. This is not a lateral move. It’s a massive step up in salary, prestige, and influence.

Which is what’s also so demoralizing about this. Not only will the SU defense get worse. Not only will good players likely leave. Not only is it a hit in recruiting. But SU doesn’t have the money to win battles like this. If Syracuse had the pockets of LSU or Penn State, this doesn’t happen. But they don’t. And it means they can’t afford playing with the big boys when the big boys go shopping.

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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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