One of the reasons Dino Babers made himself into a very attractive football coaching candidate for Syracuse was the relentless offense his teams used at Bowling Green and, before that, Eastern Illinois. The offensive attack Babers brings with him was one he learned while an assistant coach under Art Briles.
That is the same Art Briles who is no longer the head coach of the scandal-ridden football program at Baylor.
Briles was relieved of his coaching position less than three weeks ago and Baylor turned to Jim Grobe, the former Wake Forest head coach who was lured out of retirement to be the Bears’ acting head coach by Grant Teaff, the longtime Baylor head coach. Grobe is 64 years old and the title “acting head coach” does not suggest he will be hanging around Waco for a long time.
With a program and roster built around Briles’ offense and few acolytes of that style with head coaching experience, it is not a stretch to wonder if Baylor will ask Dino Babers to come back to where he spent four years as an assistant on the offensive side of the ball under Briles.
And, if they ask Babers, would he come back?
The first part, would Baylor ask Babers, is its own question. Babers fits due to his familiarity with Baylor, his head coaching experience, and his offensive style.
However, with the depths of the scandal Baylor is immersed in, a logical step for the new athletic department leadership would be to choose a clean break from all things Art Briles. That would mean no current assistants, no old assistants, just a fresh start. Even though Babers’ time in Waco is from before the timeframe of the investigation into Baylor’s football program, he would be ruled out due to his connection to Briles.
It also should not be much of a stretch for Grobe to be successful in 2016, as Baylor is coming off a 10-3 season. While the Bears’ recruiting is in flux, there certainly is enough talent on the roster where Grobe could earn the right to have “acting” removed from his business card. Sticking with Grobe would be a clean break, as well.
If Baylor just uses Grobe as a bridge to get them through the 2016 season, they may not even be interested in Babers.
If Baylor asked, would Babers agree to go? With Baylor in the Big 12, they likely would offer more money than Syracuse is paying Babers. Baylor is also a more established program than the Orange at this time, so it would be another step up the coaching ladder.
While those are nice factors for Baylor, their football program is toxic right now. Those pluses probably do not outweigh the giant minus of the scandal surrounding the program.
Baylor also may not have much pull for Babers. While Syracuse is Babers’ 15th different coaching stop, he spent time with 11 different programs before landing at Baylor. Babers had a lot of opportunities to grow roots before coming to Waco and never did.
While he learned his offensive system with the Bears, Babers was part of a staff cleaned out at UCLA following the 2007 season and Briles was taking over at Baylor. The two had never worked together previously and neither had a previous connection to Baylor at the time of Babers’ hiring.
Some suggest Babers may look to be leaving Syracuse because he will have no allegiance from whomever ends up replacing Mark Coyle as the athletic director at Syracuse and will be at risk as soon as someone is hired.
That is a reasonable opinion, but Babers is in a pretty unique position at Syracuse, as he is on the search committee to find a new athletic director. So, it is true that the incoming athletic director will not have chosen Babers. There’s a pretty good chance for a strong working relationship there, as Babers will have a significant level of influence on who even gets interviewed for the AD job, much less chosen for it.
In short, while Baylor may pick up the phone, there is no guarantee Babers answers the call, much less says yes.