College football season is just weeks away from kicking off. Dino Babers faces the task of improving after consecutive 4-8 seasons since taking over at Syracuse.
Despite some of the struggles, Babers has done a lot to prove to fans he has a vision for turning over the program. T
he question is: will Babers be able to complete the project? When he joined from Bowling Green, Babers signed a six-year deal with the Orange. Not even halfway through that deal, it seems like he has plenty of time left, but there are teams circling looking to scoop up Babers as their own.
In October, after Jim McElwain was fired, Babers had eight to one odds to become the next Florida head coach. He obviously stayed as Dan Mullen took the top job in Gainesville, but Babers was certainly in mix. That interest was at the mid-point of the season, before Syracuse lost five straight games to close the season.
Even with the disappointing finish to the season, Babers is still bound to appear on shortlists for high profile jobs.
There has been no indication from Babers that he wants to leave. However, Babers’ third year with Syracuse will make it the longest tenure of his career. He only spent two years at Eastern Illinois as the coach before moving to Bowling Green.
After two years in Ohio, Babers bolted for Central New York.
It would be hard to blame Babers for leaving as well. Compare the Syracuse job to the one at Florida for example. Mullen is now earning $6 million per year coaching the Gators, roughly double what Babers earns as the Orange coach.
Florida also has a huge edge in recruiting. Dating back to 2012, when Babers first became a head coach, Florida has ranked in the top 25 recruiting rankings, according to 24/7 Sports.
In those six years, the Gators finished in the top 15 five times, including two appearances at third overall. In that same span, Syracuse’s highest ranking was 50th. The Orange even dipped all the way down to 74th in 2013, 71 spots below that year’s Gators’ class.
Florida offers a much more prestigious position that pays twice as much and presents the opportunity to work with a much more talented group of players.
There are only a few schools with potential openings that would be tempting enough to draw Babers away from Syracuse this season. LSU looms large as Ed Orgeron continues to struggle.
As a program that has failed to develop quarterbacks in recent years, Babers could be an attractive fit. Texas Tech is another team to keep an eye on. Kliff Kingsbury is running out of time to make the Red Raiders competitive. Babers adopted his wide-open system in large part from his time at Baylor and a return to the Big 12 could be appealing.
One last school could be Michigan as Jim Harbaugh’s approach in Ann Arbor has him in danger of losing his post. Michigan obviously boasts the talent and salary to win over Babers.
The tough thing to recognize is there is not much Syracuse can do to keep Babers. Making it to a bowl game in 2018 would go a long way to making it happen.
If the Orange show signs of closing the gap on the rest of the ACC as well, Babers may feel he can accomplish something special at ‘Cuse by completing a desperately-needed turnaround. It is a tricky balance as success would increase interest in Babers, but could also convince him to stick around long term.
In short, 2018 is vital for the Orange to get it right, or risk beginning another rebuild.