As the 8th season of Dino Babers as the head coach of the Syracuse football program creeps closer and closer, it’s time to take a further look at what the possibilities are for a man who has been in SU fans’ lives since 2016. In his first seven seasons with the Orange, Babers has gone 36-49 overall (.424 winning percentage) and been to only two bowl games, going 1-1.
Now, there are many external reasons why Syracuse as a whole has struggled athletically, specifically the football program over this time. First, the nature of college football has changed, with realignment, the transfer portal, and other circumstances impacting the game constantly. Furthermore, COVID influenced the program heavily, hurting recruiting and player development shortly after the best season of Babers’ career in 2018.
So, that’s looking at things positively, but in reality, there is a chance that this is Dino Babers’ final season coaching in Central New York for a variety of reasons. It has been reported by other outlets that Babers has a significant buyout in his contract, but that number may decrease to only seven figures after this season after being significantly higher than that recently. Pair that with his performance, and you have the possibility for a crucial year.
The numbers do not lie, according to Chris Carlson of syracuse.com, “Of the 271 coaches at current Power-Five schools who have made it to Year 8, Babers ranks among the bottom 10% in win percentage. His 36-49 record at Syracuse (.424 winning percentage) ranks as the 17th-worst of that group.”
Historically, Carlson said that it’s likely if Syracuse has a losing season this year, Babers will be let go, but if the Orange make a bowl game for the second consecutive year (and first in Babers’ tenure) then he’ll likely continue for a ninth season. In addition, it is interesting what has prompted this level of patience from John Wildhack and the university to keep Babers for this long with so many poor performances.
“Babers is the first coach to last this long at a Power-Five school with a record this poor in more than a decade,” Carlson wrote. “The most recent was Vanderbilt’s Bobby Johnson, who went into his eighth season in 2009 with a record of 27-56.”
The writing is on the wall for Babers if the Orange do not have a successful season in 2023. That may be deterred by the potential for SU’s best recruiting class in years that Babers and his staff have started to put together, already with 16 commitments in the class of 2024. How a firing would change that is unknown, but it will surely have some sort of impact.
Syracuse has several tough games on the schedule this year, and it will be a lot to ask of Babers to get back to another bowl game considering SU’s propensity to not play well on the road, or in November. It’s possible 2023 is one of the more interesting years in the recent history of SU football because of these questions, and we’re only about a month away from starting to get some answers.