NEW YORK NY - DECEMBER 30: Syracuse Orange head coach Doug Marrone yells at the referee against the Kansas State Wildcats during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 30 2010 in New York New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
It's no coincidence that the following things have all happened during Year Four of the Doug Marrone Era:
- Syracuse Orange football spring practice was closed to the media.
- Doug Marrone talked openly about players on social media and how to handle it.
- The Syracuse Orange football team is going to a military base for a week during fall camp.
- Doug Marrone seemed somewhat annoyed and testy during some interviews in and around Big East Media Day.
Marrone has officially been a head coach long enough to have been through the media meatgrinder a few times now. He's two seasons removed from the feeling the positive effects of that. However, he's coming off a season when he's experienced the negative side, and there's still plenty of it out there.
I don't know how much Marrone paid attention to Syracuse newspapers, Syracuse radio, Syracuse social media and Syracuse TV but if he did check any of them out in November and beyond, he probably didn't like what he saw.
Marrone would probably tell you he doesn't pay attention to that stuff (and I'm guessing he has said that), but I think his actions so far heading into the 2012 season say otherwise.
I think Doug Marrone is fully aware of what "the media" is saying, or he's getting some very selective feedback from specific outlets, and he's pissed off.
He wants to take a page out of the Jim Boeheim playbook. He wants some control. And he's doing what he can to get it back.
What was jarring to me about Doug at Big East Media Day wasn't that he was a bit chippy, but that he seemed to be a bit chippy with Syracuse-based media outlets and his usual, jovial self with others. With Brent Axe and Orange Fizz, he was, at times, coachspeaky and at other times intense and agitated. Meanwhile, watch this interview with the Big East media folks. He's cracking jokes, doing his usual schtick and acting like we're used to seeing him.
For the first time ever, Marrone openly discussed social media and the way his players act on it. Here's what he told reporters on Big East Media Day:
"Social media is so big right now. When you see what's going on with Twitter and Facebook...how do you get those players to focus on the task at hand?...Do I ban it for the preseason?...Do I educate the players and try to make sure they use it in a way that doesn't effect their focus?"
If you think the players will have access to social media during their week at Fort Drum, you're nuts. Cutting off that access to the outside world, where control is lost, is part of the deal.
While it seems strange that he would restart his own social media presence just days later, it actually makes total sense. When players have access to social media, that's a message Doug can't control. By hosting his own social media pages, that's a way he can get that control back.
I've said from the beginning, I like that Doug closed spring practice. I like the idea of him taking the team to Fort Drum. I agree with his desire to keep the players focused and cut out distractions. This is an unbelievably critical time for Marrone and the Syracuse football program. His job isn't on the line but there needs to be improvement, especially as we prepare to make the jump into the ACC where Florida State and Clemson lurk every year. And if Doug Marrone thinks a media blackout and military base training is what it takes, I'm all for that.
But clearly, there's something else simmering below the surface (and in some cases, right there on the surface). Marrone obviously has concerns about The Message and control of it. It will be interesting to see how he acts on Syracuse Media Day and in the coming weeks, especially when he interacts with the local media and radio folks.
We're already used to the whole "upper body injury/lower body injury" schtick but my guess is that we're going to see an expansion of that mentality, especially if Marrone doesn't like the way things are going.
The Friendliest Coach In America seems to be getting a little less friendly. Maybe, just maybe, that's a good thing.