It’s hard not to notice the four-letter names of the head football coaches at Clemson and Syracuse just a couple of letters from being carbon copies of each other.
“Our first names start with the same letter,” Syracuse’s Dino Babers told reporters this week. “Kind of ends with the same letter, too.”
But that’s not what necessarily resonates the most with Babers when he thinks of Dabo Swinney.
Four years ago, with Clemson undefeated and ranked No. 2 nationally at the time, Babers’ team snapped the Tigers’ 11-game winning streak dating back to the previous season. Syracuse, which went on to win just three more games during the 2017 season, shocked Clemson at the Carrier Dome with a 27-24 win.
During their postgame handshake near midfield, TV cameras caught Swinney telling Babers, then in just his second year leading Syracuse’s program, “I’m so happy for you.” Then Swinney did something highly unusual for any opposing coach, much less one that had just lost the game.
It’s still fresh on Babers’ mind as the teams get set to renew their series Friday back at the same place.
“The last time we beat them, he came in and spoke to the team, which I thought was really cool,” Babers said.
Dabo just solidified my respect for him. Came in our locker room, shook our hands and congratulated us. WOW. That's a dude right there✊🏾
— K Sam 🇯🇲 (@EZ_Jacksterr) October 14, 2017
Swinney made his way to Syracuse’s locker room to congratulate the Orange’s players on their win. Syracuse linebacker Zaire Franklin told ESPN after that game Swinney even took photos with some of them.
“That’s one of the classiest things I’ve seen in my life,” Franklin said, according to ESPN’s David Hale.
So it came as no surprise this week when Babers said he has a good relationship with Swinney. He also heaped more praise on Swinney when asked if there’s anything he admires about Clemson’s coach.
“I think he does it the right way,” Babers said. “I like his values. I like what his kids stand for. You can see he does a good job raising young men because I like, when they do their interviews, what come out of their mouths. I think they’re a family down there. I always appreciate programs like that.”
Syracuse (3-3, 0-2 ACC) hasn’t had much luck against Clemson (3-2, 2-1) since pulling off that upset. The 25th-ranked Tigers have won the last three games in the series by an average of 21.6 points, including a 41-6 victory in its last trip to the Carrier Dome in 2019.
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