Before Dino Babers was fired, say this about him, he tried. He really, truly tried. That’s more than you can say for frauds like Greg Robinson, who seemed to assume his supposed offensive genius and NFL credentials would magically lead to wins. That’s more than you can say for Doug Marrone, who certainly helped steady the ship but was looking for a spring board to the NFL every minute he was at SU. That’s more than you can say for Scott Shafer, who seemed constantly overwhelmed by the task of being a P5 head coach.
Babers sought to do things the right way, and was often a great quote. He brought excitement and catchphrases when he started. There were no large scale controversies, and most people who interacted with Babers off the field came away with a positive experience. For the last eight years there could have been far worse representatives for the university and its football program.
The problem is the results. Babers was fired because there just wasn’t much winning, and ultimately a head coach is graded on that. The hand that Babers (and any SU football coach) was dealt is a challenge. It’s a cold weather locale in a state where high school football does not produce many 5 and 4-star recruits, without deep pocketed boosters and collectives. It felt like Babers knew the walls were closing in this season and his demeanor began to change. It’s a school known far more for its basketball program, and its football budget is nowhere near Florida State, Clemson and Miami in the ACC. The job is not for a lifer, it’s more for a good young coach that uses it for an elite program. SU fans would take a few 9 and 10 win seasons if it meant some upstart coach sprung to Ohio State after his tenure at the Dome.
Babers was fired because he wasn’t that person. Maybe Babers began to realize the hurdles were just too high, but to win at SU it takes someone to believes those challenges can be overcome. In eight years, Syracuse had only two winning seasons. In that time, they went winless in November four times. For a man with an offensive reputation, he had zero offensive players drafted by the NFL. He was 20-45 in the conference, a league filled with other mediocre programs like Wake, Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia, and Boston College. Since ’16, his .427 winning percentage ranked 99th in FBS, behind Purdue, Duke, Cal and Maryland, the types of P5 schools SU needs to be better than.
There was more than enough time to get it done. Eight years is plenty. Perhaps that duration was helped by a cash-strapped athletic department avoiding a pricey buyout. Whatever the case, it was a reasonable amount of time to allow Babers to make it work. He couldn’t, at least not consistently enough. Ultimately, Syracuse did the right thing. Babers had to be fired. Time was up.