Well, it hasn’t exactly been a secret the past couple days that Dino Babers had emerged as the frontrunner to land the task of leading the Syracuse University football program moving forward. Now, it’s about as good as official, with ESPN and Sports Illustrated reporting that the former Bowling Green head coach will take over beginning with the 2016 season, bringing his high flying offense with him.
Babers finished up the regular season with the Falcons on Friday night with a 34-14 victory over Northern Illinois, bringing Bowling Green’s record to 10-3 on the year and earning his squad a MAC Championship in the process. Now that the conference title game is in the rear view mirror, it paved the way for Babers to move on to the future of his career, which means Syracuse, fortunately for us.
And man, what an exciting offense Babers should be bringing to the Carrier Dome. In the MAC title game, his Falcons put up more than 500 yards of total offense, and that was actually a bit of a slow game for them in the grand scheme. Heck, quarterback Matt Johnson, who leads the nation in passing yards, was “limited” to 235 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Still, the wide open offense that Babers employs allowed for 266 rushing yards as a team, with an average of 5.0 yards per carry and three touchdowns on the ground. In all, it was an impressive effort from the Falcons.
Babers is a native Californian and played his college ball at Hawaii, where he was a running back. He’s only been a head coach for the past four years, having served as the head man at Eastern Illinois for two seasons – mentoring Jimmy Garoppolo, now Tom Brady’s backup with the Patriots – before moving on to Bowling Green. His offense have repeatedly put up enormous numbers in his brief time as a head coach, of course. This season, Bowling Green ranks among the national leaders in numerous offensive categories, including total offense and points per game.
Babers has had a bit of a nomadic career in the coaching world, with Syracuse becoming the 14th different program he’s worked for, if you include graduate assistant jobs at his alma mater as well as Arizona State. He learned his offense from Art Briles during the four years he spent at Baylor, where he coached special teams, wide receivers, and served as the recruiting coordinator at various points during his time in Waco.
Babers has also spent time at UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Arizona, San Diego State, Purdue, Northern Arizona, UNLV, and got his first “real” coaching gig in 1987 at Eastern Illinois – where, if you have anything resembling an attention span, is where he also got his first head coaching gig in 2012. He’s served as the offensive coordinator for two different programs – Arizona, and Texas A&M – and coached quarterbacks, running backs, and wideouts during his long coaching career.
At 54 years of age, Babers hits that sweet spot where he’s young enough to still be an exciting, energetic hire, while also being old enough that the odds of him continuing to try climbing the ladder are lessened a bit more than they would be if he were, say, 40 years old and a hotshot offensive coordinator in the Pac 12.
This is potentially a home run hire for Syracuse, as Babers and his high flying offense would appear, at least in theory, to be a perfect match for the Carrier Dome. Much will depend on who he hires to fill out his staff, and don’t be surprised if it’s comprised primarily of people he’s had with him at both Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green. Still, the door appears to be open for some of the former members of Scott Shafer’s staff to at least interview and get a shot to stick with the program, with a guy like Bobby Acosta probably having the best shot thanks in large part to his outstanding reputation as a recruiter in the New Jersey and Florida areas.
Now, it’s time for Babers to get to work. The recruiting contact period is already underway, and Syracuse is a week behind so he’ll have to get things moving forward in a hurry in order to retain the current class and add to it in the weeks between now and National Signing Day.
This is a very good hire for Syracuse. Now, it’s up to Dino Babers to convince current players and recruits of that same fact.