Maybe it is the years of conditioning coming from piles of losing seasons, Doug Marrone jumping to the NFL, Greg Robinson’s tenure, and being on the wrong end of unexplained upsets when the team was ranked decades ago.
Or maybe it is the upset losses suffered in the NCAA Tournament, including a decades-long sentence of wearing the cone of shame associated with being the first 2-seed to suffer an upset at the hands of a 15-seed. (Props once more to you, Virginia.)
Perhaps it is something even more basic, like the seeming omnipresence of gray clouds like the ones currently dropping snow on the ground in the second week of November.
Or maybe it is a combination of all three or maybe even something else is responsible for why it seems like the school motto of Syracuse University should switch from “Knowledge crowns those who seek her” to “This is why we can’t have nice things.”
What should have been one of the best moments in almost two decades of the Syracuse football program – a sound thrashing of a team that has essentially dominated the Orange the last 15 years capped by a mutual outpouring of emotion between the fanbase and one of the school’s greatest players on Senior Night – was marred by the question of if Dino Babers would stay at the helm of that same program.
I’m not saying I don’t understand.
People at traditional football powerhouses like Southern Cal and Auburn are disappointed because their teams are average. Some of those people have millions and millions of dollars that they want to spend just to find happiness and bragging rights on Saturdays.
The ultra-charismatic head coach of a team outpunching its expected weight class with a high-powered offense seems like an easy target, so load up a couple armored trucks, one to buy out the current coach and the other to entice Dino Babers to go for the big time.
And maybe that will happen.
But, what if it doesn’t?
What if Babers looks at the football program at Syracuse and sees these things:
- his team has knocked off a ranked team at home as an underdog every season
- a team that has been very close to pulling off upsets of ranked opponents on the road multiple times, including leading #2 Clemson at Death Valley for three-fourths of the game this year
- those wins have been accomplished with players that he mostly did not recruit
- those players have, however, bought in to Babers and what the commitments of playing for him are, down to lugging around jugs of water all day, every day to stay hydrated
- some of the young players Babers did recruit (Nykeim Johnson, Jarveon Howard, Taj Harris, Tommy DeVito, Andre Cisco, and Trill Williams, among others) are already major contributors along with more veteran players Babers brought in (Alton Robinson, Ryan Guthrie, Koda Martin, and Ravian Pierce come to mind)
- a new multi-sport practice facility that, while not having all the bells and whistles and barber shops and slides, is still a nice addition
- a coming conference television network that will help expand his program’s recognition
To put it simply, no one knows more than Babers what he can accomplish at Syracuse. He knows he can beat anyone in the ACC at home and he undoubtedly feels very good about his chances at doing the same on the road. He knows things are pointing up for him, based on the players his staff has brought into the program.
The program is way ahead of schedule. There are legitimate “what is the path to Syracuse making a New Year’s Day Bowl” articles being written about a team that went 8-16 over the previous couple years without winning a single game in November. Do you want to tell Dino Babers that he cannot win at Syracuse? That he can only win somewhere else?
In the last two years, Babers has beaten #2 at home and taken them to the limit at their house. Are you going to tell him that winning a national title is impossible at Syracuse when he already has that on his resume?
Yes, there are other trappings at other schools – money, fame, notoriety. But, if Babers wants more fame and notoriety, all he has to do is have post-game locker room speeches put out every week on social media. The money? Yes, that is different at programs like USC and Auburn. But, Babers might be different, too.
So, enjoy Babers and the team while you can.
After all, the sun pokes through the clouds around here once in a while, too.