While the TNIAAM staff discussed Doug Marrone’s job during Tuesday’s podcast, they brought up an interesting point: We are not Florida, Alabama or Texas. We can’t expect the same sort of success, nor can we expect the same short-term turnaround out of our coaches as those elite programs can. I think we’re all willing to accept we’re not one of those schools.
But if we’re looking for reference points, which schools should we be looking at? A couple of issues here, right off the bat, in terms of comparison points:
- We’re a private school in the Northeast playing at the FBS level.
- We’re among the 20 winningest programs of all-time, yet lack the national prestige of other schools in that same company.
- We’ve largely been an independent in football, but are now about to enter into our second athletic conference affiliation in 25 years.
- Also worth noting – given the amount of television dollars up for grabs in 2012, versus what was in play 20 years ago, it becomes increasingly difficult to compare eras of coaches. This is expounded further by society’s diminishing patience in every aspect of life.
So given these issues, which schools can we honestly compare ourselves to? Keep in mind we’d like as many factors (geography, academics, tradition) as possible to remain constant.
University of Pittsburgh: Off the bat, an obvious choice is our Big East co-defector, Pitt. A well-respected public institution for well over 200 years, their greatest football success can be seen in the rearview mirror – not unlike SU at all. The Panthers claim nine national championships, but just two in the post-1936 "modern era" of polling (1937 and 1976). Overall, the school has had 36 head coaches since 1893, with the average coach lasting around five seasons (roundabout). Today, expectations for Pitt are higher than what we see at Syracuse, though they’re never in the National Championship conversation.
Boston College: Another comparison born out of relative proximity is Boston College. A fellow northeast private school, they’d actually be the perfect reference point, if not for their lack of national championships. Eagles coaches typically stick around for seven seasons (again, inexact average) and few have departed with losing records. Current head coach Frank Spaziani is likely to buck this trend. Prior to Spaziani taking the helm, BC’s expectations were largely on par with Syracuse’s on a year-to-year basis (’07 & ’08 aside), and that’s likely to continue when we join the ACC next season.
University of Maryland: Maryland has been affiliated with a football conference since 1921 (first the Southern Conference, then the ACC), but beyond that, possess a similar resume of success, academics and location, and have won two national titles (1951 and 1953). The team’s history can also cite a clear demarcation line where they were respectable, followed by a 15-year "dark ages" (1987-2000) and then experienced a bit of a renaissance in the new century. Terps coaches usually stick around between five and 10 years (give or take), and expectations have never really surpassed a top-15 finish since the 1950s.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The Heels rank higher on academics and lower on wins than Syracuse, and also possess zero national championships. That said, they have more wins than any of their Tobacco Road brethren, and expectations have always been higher in Chapel Hill than what the team can usually deliver. Coaches typically depart UNC with a losing record, though they’ve had three different coaches stay at least 10 seasons over the past 50 years (all left with winning records, coincidentally). The average stay lately has been around four or five years.
University of Virginia: A "public Ivy," the Cavaliers’ have been most proficient in sports such as soccer and lacrosse, but have also managed a good deal of respectability, despite just two conference titles in their 59 years of ACC football. Most of its recent gridiron history has seen just two coaches – George Welsh (1982-2000) and Al Groh (2001-2009) – followed by current head man,. Welsh guided the team through the most successful stretch they’ve ever had, winning at least seven games for 14 consecutive years. Prior to those two, Virginia coaches would typically last four or five years.
University of California, Berkley: The Bears are the only non-ACC team here, but their history is not necessarily dissimilar from ours and the other schools above. In the modern era, they’ve seen short spikes of success, and extended lulls of futility, though they were incredibly successful prior to the modern (post-1936) era. Typical Cal coaches have also stuck around about five years, though current head coach Jeff Tedford is now in his tenth season after rescuing them from some of the worst depths they’ve seen (a GRob-esque 12-43 stretch from 1997-2001).
If we’re comparing Syracuse and Doug Marrone to these schools, it would appear talk of his dismissal is premature this season. But without more wins on the board by the end of 2013, his resume would also fall very much in line with what we’ve seen at our peer institutions in the past. For all of these schools, the ceiling is usually around eight or nine wins, and when coaches spend an extended amount of time below that line, that’s when they’ve been released.
Again, I’m not calling for Marrone’s head at all. That said, if Syracuse wants to keep up – not with Florida and Alabama, but with our peers – Marrone’s teams must start earning more on-field Ws, and quit chalking up moral victories.