Item: From a MAC championship late Friday evening in Detroit, to a weekend of Ohio goodbyes and Syracuse hellos, including Monday’s many hours of formal introductions on the SU campus with various meetings, media sessions and finally greeting his players. That’s the whirlwind last four days in the life of Dino Babers, and it’s ended with his “move of faith, belief without evidence” launch of a most contemporary era as Syracuse football’s 30th head football coach, and the excitement throughout Orange Nation has been palpable.
After two most anxious weeks of speculation amongst the Syracuse football program’s various stakeholders, what’s not to like when you see the four item checklist (below) that athletics director Mark Coyle proclaimed he used as his guide in making the most critical hire of his career to date, in a position he’s only been administering himself for some six months?
- Tremendous honesty and integrity
- Focused on the student-athletes welfare
- Innovative with an exciting brand of football
- Committed to winning
The unanimous wave of enthusiasm backing the Babers hiring has Coyle flying high in the overtly under the radar approach he takes to the job, having made only one, “let’s wait until the end of the season” pre-season comment on the football coaching position, issuing only a one paragraph statement on the release of Scott Shafer five days before the Nov. 28 season finale to give himself crucial extra time to get a new coach on board, before emerging to confirm the weekend hiring of Babers and Monday morning’s most optimistic introduction inside the football wing at Manley Field House.
Were you one of the likely record number of ‘Cuse football fans tuning into a MAC football title game last Friday evening? Did your excitement grow each time Babers’ Bowling Green offense added more points to the scoreboard in its eventual 34-14 win over Northern Illinois?
Okay, then, follow along as Babers laid out his first coaching sermon during his debut press conference.
“Close your eyes for me,” Babers instructed the audience inside the Iocolano-Petty Football Wing auditorium. “Visualize this. You’re in the Carrier Dome. The house is filled. The feeling is electric. The noise is deafening. You have a defense that is relentless. You have a special teams (unit) that has been well coached. You have an offense that will not huddle. And you have a game that’s faster than you’ve ever seen on turf. Open your eyes. That’s going to be a reality, that’s going to be Syracuse football.”
As Baber’s words energized the fan base, he reiterated the need to have faith in letting his staff do its recruiting and teaching work to get an incredibly up-tempo, and sooner-than-later winning product on the field, while asking that Orange Nation make its commitment to fill up the soon-to-be-renovated Dome to maximize the home field advantage seven times a season (six times in 2016).
Babers also embraced Coyle’s candidness in laying out his vision, and most importantly his commitment, to fix Syracuse football during their talks about taking the job, ultimately deciding to accept the position, again on faith, without having set foot on campus.
“I’ve met and I‘ve talked to a lot of people, a lot of different athletic directors,” Babers said during a Monday afternoon teleconference with media members covering the program. “And Mark just comes across as a humble, honest individual, somebody that you learn to trust very early. In talking to him, it just seems like what he was telling me was the truth. And, if I can get the truth, I can figure out the rest of the stuff myself.”
So with all due apologies to the Syracuse AD, our head coaching to-do checklist for Babers and his new staff would now first dictate a winning season and a bowl game appearance, followed by challenging not only heavyweights Clemson and Florida State for the ACC Atlantic Division crown, but contemporaries N.C. State, Louisville, B.C. and Wake Forest as well (along with annual cross-over opponent Pitt), while inching towards the first appearance in the Top 25 poll since 2001, with a path to a New Year’s Day bowl, or dare we say, remembering Babers credo of displaying faith in all components of the program, competing for the ACC title and a top six College Football Playoff bowl game.
“If we have faith in each other, that you (the fans) can fill it (the Dome) up, and we’ll do our part (to) find a way to win,” Babers declared Monday, “(then) I can’t see any reason why we can’t be at the top of the ACC.”