State of the SU Football Program Address
It has been raining in Syracuse today. A steady and slow rain, it is fittingly symbolic. On the most celebrated day in recent years for SU football, the weather couldn't even cooperate. A grand opening gala for "The Express", a movie about former SU legend Ernie Davis, is scheduled for tonight at the Landmark Theater in downtown Syracuse. This is by far the most significant story involving SU football in quite some time, and may perhaps be the only one that gives ‘Cuse fans any reason to cheer this year. The football team has started off on the wrong foot again this season, dropping its first two contests including an embarrassing home loss to Akron. It is well-documented that the Orange has just a 7-30 record since the hiring of Greg Robinson prior to the 2005 season. But just what exactly was it that preceded this? What, indeed, were the reasons for firing Paul Pasqualoni?
The 2004 Orange finished the season with a 6-6 record, concluding the campaign with their biggest bowl in over fifty years (the 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the Champs Sports Bowl in 2004 was the largest since a 61-6 shellacking at the hands of Alabama in 1953). While this was Syracuse's first bowl appearance in three years, it apparently was not enough for the people in charge. New SU chancellor Nancy Cantor repeatedly gave her support to embattled Coach P, even through the bowl debacle and a loss to Temple. However, longtime athletic director Jake Crouthamel, an instrumental part of the formation of the Big East conference, was soon forced out and replaced by an up-and-coming Daryl Gross. Gross, while a man who had experienced success, was an outsider. Coming from USC, a much more prominent program, Gross had never been in a role like this before.
He would soon make the change that now defines the state of SU football. Pasqualoni was fired and an inexperienced defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson, took his place at the helm of the Orange football program. This decision to bring in two outsiders from across the country has now set back SU football at least five years and left it in its current state of shambles. While Paul Pasqualoni may have underachieved with his talent, he still had a winning bowl record and finished with only one losing season at Syracuse. Now, the state of SU football is so awful, that despite the tradition, Greg Robinson can't even recruit the level of talent necessary to execute his West Coast offense.
To conclude and assess some blame as to where it went wrong, it is clear that many must be indicted. While chancellor Nancy Cantor has been instrumental to the revitalization of the city of Syracuse, its connection with the university and the academics at SU, the athletic program has suffered mightily under her watch. Her hiring of Daryl Gross brought another outsider into the equation. And while Gross states his love of Syracuse sports and their rich histories, he is still the same man who rode the coattails of success at USC to make a name for himself here at Syracuse. And, as we now know, that hasn't worked out too well for him or for us, the fans. And as for coach Greg Robinson, he now has an entire hand-picked team of his recruits. Robinson, a supposed defensive mastermind, has seen relatively little success on defense at SU. The program is terrible all-around and the entire cupboard needs to be cleaned out.
So, how will the program be restored to respectability? Well, it may prove difficult in the coming years, as Chancellor Cantor just received an extension on her contract at SU. The Orange must be willing to bite the bullet and admit they screwed it up though. That starts at the AD spot. Syracuse should target someone that grew up amidst Syracuse sports and understands its history and traditions. This is something that will not likely happen during the middle of the football season, however. So for now, SU must get the premiere of "The Express" out of the way and listen to the voices of the luminous SU alumni that returned for this special weekend. These voices will assuredly be imploring that change is necessary. These same alumni are the ones pumping money into SU's athletic department. If they speak out, Syracuse University should listen. Should Penn State dispatches of SU, a very likely outcome, then Greg Robinson should be gone immediately.
Rumors have been flying through the local media that SU is just waiting to get past this weekend and then address the football program. And since it is apparent that Robinson won't resign, he needs to be fired so the ‘Cuse can move on. By naming Mitch Browning the interim head coach, SU would keep some sense of stability around the program. If he succeeds this season, he could be brought back. But it is more likely that SU will want to assert itself with a high-profile head coaching hire. So here are a few names that have been bandied around:
• Lloyd Carr – The former University of Michigan head coach lost his job for solely one reason: his inability to beat Ohio State. Carr is a proven recruiter who doesn't run any funky offenses or any gimmicks like that. He is a proven winner that could lead SU's charge back to prominence. Another plus: he's not a complete stranger to winter weather and cold temperatures.
• Skip Holtz – He is the most popular name on the rumor mill right now, after his East Carolina Pirates engineered two consecutive shocking upsets to begin the season. Holtz will likely receive better job offers than at Syracuse, but he is a coach on a meteoric rise right now. He pushes his players and motivates them to get the best out of them every week, something Greg Robinson has struggled to do.
• Turner Gill – The former positions coach at Nebraska recently accepted a five year head coaching contract at the University of Buffalo could find himself moving eastward on I-90. Gill has begun the arduous process of turning around the Buffalo program. He's off to a good start there, having produced NFL product Trevor Scott, and would be a solid local fit with the ‘Cuse.
Now that the blueprint has been established, all we can do is sit back and wait. And, oh yeah, show up to the Loudhouse tomorrow to cheer on the Orange!
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