This is what we know at the moment: UCF does not have a new head coach yet, and Dino Babers is currently the head coach at Bowling Green. We thought those statements would be different, but after a Twitter-fueled wild goose chase on Sunday night, this is where we are, at least until after the MAC Championship Game on Friday night.
Let's recap the last 36 hours.
NOTE: This story has been updated. Also: Brandon Helwig reported Tuesday morning that Scott Frost will be UCF's next head coach. More on that in a later post.
Confirmed via multiple sources, both inside and outside UCF: Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost will be UCF's next head coach.— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) December 1, 2015
Josh Newburg of 247Sports breaks the supposed news in collaboration with 247's national recruiting analyst, Ryan Bartow (save that for later):
Steven Godfrey of SBNation later claimed to have confirmed that news:
Everyone got excited. Then they stopped getting excited:
I'm told Babers and UCF isn't done, per person with knowledge.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 30, 2015
Then the BGSU guys threw water on the fire by doing good reporting:
Many rumors of Dino Babers having a deal done and ready at UCF out there this evening. I'm told nothing out of the ordinary at BG today.— Thomas Schmeltz (@Thomas_Schmeltz) November 30, 2015
I'm told the Dino Babers to UCF news is premature. Deal is not done.— Jordan Strack (@JordanStrack) November 30, 2015
Then Dino actually talked to someone:
Then Dino talked:
The rumors about me accepting a job at UCF are not true. I am focused on @BG_Football and winning a MAC Championship Friday night.— Dino Babers (@CoachBabersCuse) November 30, 2015
That evening, the guys over at FootballScoop.com unleashed an interesting little nugget about Babers' contract:
So, about Dino Babers to UCF… how about $100k for a couple of days wait https://t.co/sNnVtycOD5— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) November 30, 2015
According to their blurb, Babers' buyout drops from $300,000 to $200,000 if he is still the head coach as of December 1.
So it's no surprise that Brandon Helwig of UCFSports.com then reported this:
There are a lot of upset people this news was reported. UCF source still says he's a leading candidate, but no deal, nothing official.— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) November 30, 2015
With Bowling Green set to play on Friday, Dino Babers is not in position to publicly accept other HC position, UCF or otherwise.— Brandon Helwig (@UCFSports) November 30, 2015
And we went to bed with clarity, but no football coach.
Dino Babers holds his weekly press conference before the MAC Championship, and addresses the events of the previous evening:
Dino Babers says the report from 247 last night was completely false. Dino says he has not signed anything.— Thomas Schmeltz (@Thomas_Schmeltz) November 30, 2015
Babers' full quote, "I have not signed anything. I am not going anywhere, OK. I have no secret deals, no above deals, no verbal deals."— Thomas Schmeltz (@Thomas_Schmeltz) November 30, 2015
"I've turned down jobs because I want to play in the MAC championship game. I've lost jobs because I want to play in the MAC championship."— Thomas Schmeltz (@Thomas_Schmeltz) November 30, 2015
On if the mindset changes (about jobs) after the season, Babers said, "Of course it does."— Thomas Schmeltz (@Thomas_Schmeltz) November 30, 2015
Meanwhile, back in UCF Land, VP for Communications and Marketing Grant Heston was engaging in some damage control:
So that's where we are. As of right now, SBNation still has their Babers to UCF story up, but Babers is getting his Bowling Green team ready for the Mac Championship Friday.
What I Think Happened
So let's join the crowd in dispensing with all journalistic integrity and engage in reckless speculation:
Let's go back to our initial report, from 247 Sports. You'll notice it was sent out by writer Josh Newberg in collaboration with their national recruiting analyst, Ryan Bartow, and quotes "multiple sources." Who would leak it?
It wouldn't be UCF, considering that could poison the whole deal, and it wouldn't be Babers, since he's trying to keep his team's focus on the game. It also wouldn't be his agent, since that could do both of the above and scare off anyone who might try to swoop in to steal him out from under UCF (like, say, Syracuse).
I spoke with my Guy Who Knows Things earlier today, and he told me that what happens a lot of times is recruits are the ones who are the sources of reports like this. So a recruiting reporter will hear something about the coach, and call a recruit (or their parents) or two of that coach to ask about if he heard anything. The recruits, being 17 or 18 years old and largely unfamiliar with such journalistic practices as being on or off the record, or on background, will say that yes, the coach said he'd be going elsewhere.
Boom - There are your multiple sources. Send out that tweet.
I will spare you the pontificating about recruiting and reporting on recruiting and how wonderful and clean a business it all is.
Let's also not forget that Dino Babers is not the one who would be talking with Danny White or any representative of UCF at this stage in the game. As Brandon Helwig reported, Dino interviewed on Saturday. From that point on, it's Dino's agent who is in the room with White and whomever else pounding out the contract terms. Babers maintains plausible deniability while also maintaining (at least publicly) his focus on the MAC Championship.
We've seen this before with other coaches. You'll notice that at no point did Dino say he would not go to UCF or anywhere else after Friday, either. As far as his public timeline is concerned, there is this week, ending on Friday, and nothing else. And mind you, he has to do that in order to preserve his players' focus for the game. Yes, that does matter (especially to Babers), and yes, football coaches are excellent at compartmentalization like that. I wouldn't expect anything less from any coach in any sport.
My utterly uneducated and purely speculative guess is that Babers and UCF's representatives (White, Heston and Co.) have likely agreed that he will come to UCF, but that's it. [UPDATE: They didn't] Contract terms will be hammered out this week, and once the MAC Championship ends, we'll hear something official - probably Saturday morning. This not only allows Dino to finish what he started at BG, but also save him $100,000 worth of buyout money (hence the "upset people" when the news broke). Until then, the lid stays on - Hence the reason why Heston came out in Damage Control Mode on Monday morning.
Of course, talks could break down between now and then, or Babers could get a Godfather offer from some other school higher up the food chain. Or he could tell UCF to go pound sand, a-la what Bobby Hurley supposedly did to Danny White at Buffalo when he perceived that White was pressuring him into a contract extension via leaks to the media.
But if Dino Babers is going to be UCF's next head football coach, we, dear UCF fans, will have to sit down, shut up and wait until Friday night at the earliest to hear what happens next.
In the meantime, you can bet my friend Eric Lopez that Friday's MAC Championship will get some high-than-expected TV ratings in the Orlando market.