Dino Babers donned an orange tie for the special occasion and promised big things at his formal introduction as the 30th head football coach at Syracuse.
"I'm hoping that I can be embraced into the city and the state of New York because I really believe special things are going to happen here," the 54-year-old Babers said Monday. "I really believe that we're going to start something that people are going to be talking about for a long, long time."
The Orange lured Babers away from Bowling Green on Saturday, a day after his Falcons won the Mid-American Conference championship game. Babers has gone 18-9 in two seasons at Bowling Green and brings a fast-paced, Baylor-style offense to the Carrier Dome.
His new job promises to be a challenge. Syracuse has won just seven games in the last two seasons and is looking for a way to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference with the likes of Florida State and Clemson. The Orange went 4-8 in Scott Shafer's third and final season.
Syracuse athletic director Mark Coyle fired Shafer on Nov. 23, two days after the Orange's eighth straight loss. That was one week before Shafer coached Syracuse to victory over Boston College in the season finale, and it allowed Coyle to immediately begin a national search in an extremely competitive environment. More than a dozen FBS schools were in the market for new coaches.
"If you look across the national landscape and the number of openings, I thought it was critical to give us additional time," said Coyle, who was hired in June after a stint at Boise State. "I can tell you having that five days to actively visit and talk to different candidates was a huge help."
Babers spent 25 years as an assistant coach, including four seasons at Baylor (2008-11) under Art Briles. Babers' offense incorporates Baylor's up-tempo spread with pro-style principles. Bowling Green was 10-3 during the season and ranked fourth in the nation in total offense, averaging 561 yards.
He promised more of the same.
"I don't see any reason why it should be any different than any other place I've been," Babers said. "We're looking for early success."
Since going 10-3 in 2001 and being ranked 18th under Paul Pasqualoni, Syracuse football has mostly been in free fall. The Orange has had the only two 10-loss seasons in school history and has had only three winning seasons since. The dismal showing has sent attendance well down from the heady days of Donovan McNabb in the late 1990s, when playing in the Carrier Dome often was a real challenge for opposing teams.
Babers, the fourth coach in seven years at Syracuse, is in familiar territory.
"I was on the rebuilding team with Baylor University and 33 years without going to a bowl game when Art Briles went there," he said. "I was on the ground with him when we started that program and he kept saying the exact same thing, 'If we win, they'll come, but we have to do our part."'
Babers indicated that Bowling Green defensive coordinator Brian Ward, who will serve as interim coach of the Falcons in the Go Daddy Bowl on Dec. 23, would be one of his choices for his new staff at Syracuse.
Before coaching in the MAC, Babers spent two seasons at Eastern Illinois and went 19-7 with two FCS playoff appearances. And he's well-versed in the history of his new school.
"The tradition here is unbelievable. Unbelievable," said Babers, who is from Honolulu. "We're talking about 44. We're talking about Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little. Heck, I know 39 — Larry Csonka. And the fan support — we need to give them what they deserve, and that's what I came here to do."