Former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer was beloved by his players. When news came out that he had been fired, many current and former players posted their support on social media. During his final game on Saturday, coaches and players alike gave him a hug as they took the field. One thing was clear from the opening kickoff on. This game was for coach Shafer.
Players stated as much afterwards.
"A lot of the seniors spoke to the team last night," sophomore captain Zaire Franklin said. "They were like, they played their games. They've done all they wanted so it was important to win this one for Shafe because he really cares about our program and he cares about us not only as players but as individuals. I think it was definitely important to get this win for Shafe."
After Cole Murphy drilled a 36 yard field goal at the buzzer to help the Orange beat Boston College, the players went to the middle of the field to shake hands with the Eagles' players. Moments later, most of the players gathered in the end zone where the team sings the alma matter after game.
It was at that moment that two seniors offensive linemen, Nick Robinson and Rob Trudo lifted Shafer onto their shoulders and carried him off the field. As they walked him from the middle of the field towards the end zone, the rest of the team gathered around Shafer and they celebrated together (pictured below). It was a cool moment, and a fitting one for Shafer.
In post-game press conferences, two Syracuse players came out to discuss the game and coach Shafer with the media. Sophomore captain Zaire Franklin and sophomore wide receiver Steve Ishmael. Both said they will remember Shafer fondly as their former head coach.
"The thing I'll remember most about coach Shafe is how fiery he is," Franklin said. "I loved how hot he could get in a split second. At the same time, if he's wrong, he'll come right back and be like, 'alright, I was wrong.' Coach Shafe's a real emotional guy and it's fun playing for a guy like that."
Ishamel echoed similar sentiments.
"Just his enthusiasm, man," Ishmael said. "Coach Shafe was a great guy. Great coach, man. The funny thing is coach Shafe never yelled at me. Not one time. Me and him, we had a great relationship. The thing I'll always remember most is just his enthusiasm. He's a positive guy. A great person.
"We used to go to his house during the offseason, he would treat us just like family. Offer us food and stuff like that. Never a greedy guy. He always treated us great. I love him, man."
No doubt those same things would be stated by most of the current roster. The good news for Shafer and family is that he will find a landing spot. He has a strong track record as a good defensive mind whether it is a position coach or a coordinator.
There were tears among Shafer, his family, his players and their families after the game, proving his impact went well beyond the football field. Also proving that sometimes, nice guys do finish last.
This is a man who, even with all of this turmoil about his job and how it impacts his family and the families of those he considers close friends, would ask me personally how my newborn baby is doing. Even after he had been fired and was saying goodbye to players' families, he asked the same.
While Shafer is no doubt upset about Syracuse moving on for himself, he seems to be more concerned with the future of his players, his coaches, and all of their families.
This is a bottom line business, and the wins just did not come frequently enough for many. That is the ugly truth of major college football.
So, as Scott would often say, next coach up.