Western Carolina grad Fran Brown hired by Syracuse

The former Catamounts cornerback will be a head coach for the first time

Georgia defensive backs coach and former Western Carolina cornerback Fran Brown has been hired to be the next coach at Syracuse. (Tony Walsh / UGAAA)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse hired Georgia defensive backs coach Fran Brown as its head coach on Tuesday, giving the Orange a highly regarded recruiter with roots in the Northeast.

The 41-year-old Brown, a native of Camden, New Jersey, who was a defensive back at Western Carolina, spent the past two seasons with Georgia has never been a head coach. He was part of a national championship team last season.

“I am incredibly proud to be leading Syracuse Football at a university with a rich and storied tradition of academic and athletic excellence,” Brown said in a statement. “Syracuse football has outstanding talent, great facilities and passionate alumni. The success of the players is my No. 1 priority — on and off the field.”

Dino Babers was fired by Syracuse nine days ago, one game short of completing his eighth season as the Orange’s coach and with one year left on his contract. He went 41-55 overall and 20-45 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Brown is known as one of the country’s top recruiters, among the criteria mentioned by Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack as necessary qualities in Orange’s next coach. He helped the Bulldogs hold the No. 1 spot in 247Sports’ 2024 recruiting rankings and he was named a Top 10 recruiter by 247Sports at Baylor.

“Fran has clearly articulated a vision for the future of our football program, and he is a powerhouse recruiter with deep ties to the geographies from where we need to draw consistently,” Wildhack said. “Fran has had tremendous success recruiting to a variety of programs — in the South, Southwest and Northeast, and I have no doubt he will bring that track record here to Syracuse.”

Before joining coach Kirby Smart’s staff at Georgia, Brown spent most of his career in the Northeast at Temple and Rutgers. He also spent two years at Baylor working for Matt Rhule, who is now at Nebraska.

Brown has coached several players to conference and national honors, including Georgia safety Malaki Starks, a finalist this year for the Nagurski Trophy, given to the country’s best defensive player.

After a playing career during which he was a team captain for the Catamounts and named to the All-Southern Conference first team, he started his coaching career in 2011 at Temple as director of internal operations. He was named defensive backs coach in 2013 and promoted to assistant head coach in 2016.

Brown has already identified his defensive coordinator. Elijah Robinson, who served as Texas A&M’s interim coach after the firing of Jimbo Fisher, was offered a deal by new Aggies coach Mike Elko that would have made him the highest-paid noncoordinator in the country, but he will instead join Brown. Both are from Camden and went to the same high school — Brown is three years older — and later coached together at both Temple and Baylor under Rhule.

“He made you believe he was going to get it done,” Rhule told Syracuse.com.