Inside Dino Babers’ 3 rules for Syracuse football

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Josh Black was standing in line for a sandwich in the Iocolano-Petty Football Wing cafeteria last season when he heard Dino Babers scream his last name. Black forgot to put socks on and wandered in wearing just Nike slides on his feet.“I was like, ‘Oh what did I do now?’” Black said, recalling the incident. “I turn around, he just kind of stares at me and looks down. And I was like, ‘I’m sorry coach.’”“Yeah you are,” Black remembers Babers replying.Black served his punishment — the usual push-ups — on the spot while Babers hovered over him. When Black went to put socks on, someone threw his sandwich away.“I probably did at least 35 before he told me I could get up,” Black said. “Usually it’s 10. Usually it’s just some slap on the wrist. But he was feeling some certain way that day …  I don’t even wear sandals in the cafeteria anymore.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBlack had broken one of the rules that have governed Syracuse’s program since Babers’ arrival in December 2015. They’re of his own creation, he said, and govern far more than football. And though there is no one method to creating a strong locker room — a group that stayed close knit amid SU’s (4-6, 1-5 Atlantic Coast) four-game losing skid — Babers’ three main rules are a good start.They are, in order — and the order is important to Babers:Don’t steal.Don’t lie.And use common sense.“Ever try to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but you really don’t like the crust?” Babers asked rhetorically. “There are some people that cut off the crust — I like the crust — but they’ll cut all the crust off and eat the middle part. That’s kind of how the rules are. There’s a lot of rules you can have, but if you want to be really good with the rules, you limit them.”The first two rules might be obvious, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been broken. On Dec. 26, 2016, two freshmen — Jaquwan Nelson and Devon Clarke — stole several items from a South Campus apartment. When they were arrested the following February, both were suspended from all team activities. Clarke was eventually reinstated in July and is still on the team while Nelson is no longer with the program.It’s one of the few times in Babers’ nearly four years that either Rule No. 1 or No. 2 has been broken. Far more common are the many different ways “use common sense” manifests. It is, Babers stressed, more complex than the three base rules.“I think because they’re very, very easy and simple,” Babers said, “it shows how complex it is to be in a family, on a football team. But if you can’t handle these three things, you can’t handle the complexity.”Two days after backup quarterback Clayton Welch connected with sophomore wideout Taj Harris for a 94-yard touchdown in a loss to Pittsburgh this season, Babers said both players showed a lot of “Rule No. 3.”Welch and Harris flashed their common sense on the long touchdown — Welch stepped back and bought extra time in the pocket and Harris knew to high step out of the tackle of a diving defender after the catch. On that play, “Rule No. 3” caused a touchdown.“I was really excited to see him down that,” Babers said.Syracuse has plenty of other detailed rules that Babers enforces. You aren’t allowed to wear a plain white T-shirt in the football wing. If someone enters the cafeteria there, they need to be wearing socks or closed toed shoes and their shirt must have sleeves. Hoods can’t be worn inside at all and hats must be taken off at the table. Players aren’t allowed to have any food or drink — not even water — during team meetings.Babers enters meetings right after strength coach Sean Edinger and it’s often between Edinger’s entrance and Babers arrival that someone rushes from the back of the auditorium to fling a cup of water in the trash in time.There’s a lot of rules you can have, but if you want to be really good with the rules, you limit them.Dino BabersWhile Babers has his three specific rules, everything — including the extensive list of detailed rules beyond the main trio — ultimately can fall under the purview of Rule No. 3.“Whether it be football, school,” Black said, “whether you’re going out for a weekend, ‘Oh yeah, have common sense.’ You’re representing the family when you’re out. Usually when you break one of the rules, you break Rule No. 3.”Almost every Syracuse player has had some similar experience to Black’s last season and because of that, Babers’ culture has taken root. Players do as much, if not more, policing than Babers. If defensive lineman KJ Ruff sees someone sitting with their hood on or earbuds in, he’ll subtly motion for his teammate to shape up. It helps that they can be singled out to recite the three rules, in order, at any given time. Freeze up or get it wrong? Push-ups.It’s a system of accountability, a clearly established set of expectations of his players from the first day. And as desired, it has come to govern much more than football and reach beyond just the three pillars Babers specifically touts.“You have to remember three very important things that apply to everything,” Black said. Comments Published on November 19, 2019 at 9:40 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Grahamlast_img

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