Syracuse football fans knew this day was coming, but not in year two of the Dino Babers era. Already Babers' name is being mentioned in media circles as a candidate for the Florida coaching vacancy. It may the first of many jobs he is rumored to be in the running for in the next couple of months.
It's flattering but also disconcerting. Babers has the Orange football program heading in the right direction halfway through his second season. Syracuse's huge upset of No. 2 Clemson last month put Babers in the national spotlight. No doubt, Babers knows how to get his team up for a big game and Syracuse's 4-4 record is a testament to his coaching ability. The Orange only need two wins in their last four games to be bowl eligible for the first time in four years.
With success comes attention and Babers is getting it which means he could be leaving Syracuse a lot sooner than some Orange fans would like. In a way, it's only fair. After all, Syracuse hired Babers away from Bowling Green and I don't think anyone felt too bad for the Falcons. Leaving the MAC for an ACC program means more prestige and money.
Who could blame Babers if a SEC school offered him millions more than Syracuse could pay? College football is a business (except the players who don't get paid, which is a topic for another day) and a coach owes it to himself and his family to maximize his earnings while his services are in high demand. In other words, strike while the iron's hot.
Of course Babers could use the possibility of another job as leverage to get more money from Syracuse. Again, who could blame him. That's a position that any of us would like to be in.
But I hope Babers sticks around a while longer to see how far he can take this program. The Orange are 8-12 in Babers' short tenure but he is starting to see tangible results of his labors, Syracuse football is inching toward respectability. A bowl game this year would be nice because it would be a reward for the players who have been through a coaching change and a lot of losing.
Next season will be important to see if Babers is the right man to turn Syracuse into a top 25 program. It would be his third recruiting class and most of the players would be the ones he brought in. Expectations would be higher but that's what you want. It took Dick MacPherson seven years to get Syracuse to a major bowl and become a top 25 program; Babers may be able to do it a few years sooner.
But if Florida or another powerhouse comes calling with guarantees of big money, then it's understandable if he departs. Remember Doug Marrone? The former Orange player called Syracuse his dream job but still ditched his alma mater for the big money of the NFL. Babers doesn't even have those sentimental ties.
Ultimately Babers is going to get more money, the question will be is the check coming from Syracuse or another school.
Babers' introductory press conference still sticks in my head, almost two years later, his words of imagining a packed Carrier Dome and an offense that was entertaining and fast. His offense is playing fast and the Carrier Dome is starting to fill up. I just hope Babers is around in a few years to make that fantasy really come true.