Thursday, July 18, 2024

Syracuse coaching candidates: Dan Mullen, Doug Marrone, Sean Lewis among options to replace Dino Babers

Syracuse’s Dino Babers became the latest coach to pack up his office on Sunday. The firing came one day after the Orange fell to Georgia Tech 31-22. Babers compiled a 41-55 record with the program and only had two winning seasons. This comes after a tenure at Bowling Green where he went 18-9 in two seasons. 

Where will the Orange go from here? The program has enjoyed above-average success at times, including from 1995-01 when they finished ranked in the AP top 25 five times in a seven-year span. However, the next head coach will have a rebuilding job on his hands based on the program’s current state of disarray. Upstate New York isn’t the most fertile recruiting ground, but there are enough players in the area to build a competitive program if the roster is supplemented through the transfer portal. 

The potential of the program combined with its spot in the ACC will make the job attractive to several established candidates as well as a few up-and-comers who would love to take their talents to the next level. Who will Syracuse consider? Here’s a list of potential candidates. 

Syracuse coaching candidates 

Ex-Mississippi State, Florida coach Dan Mullen: Mullen was 69-46 from 2009-17 at Mississippi State, led the Bulldogs seven straight bowl games and elevated the program to No. 1 in the country in the first ever College Football Playoff Rankings in 2014. His eight-year run made him the best coach in the history of a program that had only been to 13 bowl games prior to his arrival. He was hired by Florida prior to the 2018 season, went 34-15 and won the SEC East in 2020. Mullen was born in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, played at Ursinus College in Collegeville Pennsylvania, and was a graduate assistant at Syracuse in 1998. He is familiar with the program, region and has won at a high level in major college football. 

Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis: Lewis is a natural fit for a program that needs a jolt. He was demoted by Buffaloes coach Deion Sanders during the 2023 season, less than one year after he left the head coaching job at Kent State to join ‘Coach Prime’s’ staff in Boulder. He compiled a 24-31 record in five seasons with the Golden Flashes (2018-22), won the MAC East in 2021 and earned two bowl appearances. His work as the Syracuse co-offensive coordinator two years prior to his Kent State tenure gives him plenty of knowledge about the challenges that exist with the Orange.

Ex-Syracuse, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone: Marrone was 25-25 in four seasons leading the Orange from 2009-12. During that time Syracuse was crowned co-champion of the Big East and won the Pinstripe Bowl over West Virginia. His success landed him a job with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills where he only lasted two with a 15-17 record. He spent one year as an assistant with the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was elevated to the head coaching position following the dismissal of Gus Bradley. His 23-43 record with the Jaguars isn’t impressive, but he did lead the Jags to a division title and trip to the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 season.

James Madison coach Curt Cignetti: The Dukes have been the talk of the college football world this season. They started 10-0 in just their second year at the FBS level. Cignetti is 51-9 in five seasons with the program and has an 18-4 record in the two seasons since the Dukes jumped from the FCS level. He 118-34 overall with stints at IUP (2011-16), Elon (2017-18) and James Madison (2019-23).

Liberty coach Jamey Chadwell: Chadwell wins everywhere he goes. His Flames are 10-0 this year and are ranked No. 22 in the AP Top 25. This comes one year after a 39-22 stint over a five year period (2017, 2019-22) at Coastal Carolina. He led the Chanticleers to double-digit win totals in 2020 and 2021, finished the 2020 season ranked No. 14 in the final AP Top 25 and posted an undefeated regular season before falling to his current team, Liberty, in the Cure Bowl. He builds explosive offenses, can develop quarterbacks and knows how to turn talented players into winners. He would be a home run hire for the Orange. 

Tulane coach Willie Fritz: What’s not to love about Fritz? He led Tulane to a win over USC in the Cotton Bowl last year, finished 12-2 and No. 9 in the final AP Top 25. His Green Wave currently rank No. 18 in the AP Top 25 with a 10-1 record. They also have a an unblemished mark in the AAC and sit on the inside track to make their second-straight New Year’s Six bowl this season. Fritz boasts a 206-115 overall record with stops at Central Missouri (1997-09), Sam Houston State (2010-13), Georgia Southern (2014-15) and Tulane (2016-present).

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