If you had asked me 48 hours ago, I would have told you that Doug Marrone would still be our coach this upcoming season. When the number of interviews and NFL teams went up, it became apparent that this wasn't just Doug kicking the tires on the NFL or granting a few interviews out of respect, but ultimately, I thought that there were too many solid candidates for him to get one of the jobs this season.
As Syracuse football fans, we've all learned never to doubt Doug Marrone, and he reminded us of this one final time by landing an NFL job two hours west in Buffalo.
I can never blame Marrone for taking a job in the NFL. We all talk about how there are only 32 of these jobs and any coach good enough to be considered for a job in the league probably has the ego to believe that he can succeed there. Marrone also faced a conference move without his quarterback, star offensive tackle, or two best receivers next season. There's a chance that he believed that his stock was as high as it would get for the foreseeable future.
Doug Marrone was a good coach and a great fit at Syracuse, and he will be hard to replace but he is by no means irreplaceable. Through his four years he built the SU program up from the dregs of a dying conference and today this position is FAR more attractive than it was when he broke out his binder. I don't have major concerns about Dr. Gross and company finding a good coach to replace him, my concern lies with the factors that led to him taking this jump in the first place.
If Marrone's main impetus for leaving Syracuse was that he really wanted an NFL job, then there is really nothing the Syracuse administration could have done. However, by this point we've all heard whispers around the internet about assistant coaching salaries and issues with the long-discussed football practice facility. These should be treated as internet conjecture until the day that something concrete comes out, but if they did play a part in motivating Marrone to look for new work, it is a major concern for the program going forward. By entering the ACC, Syracuse made the statement that it wants to compete in big time college football. If the University does not make the necessary investments that it takes to keep great coaches and bring in great players, the move will have been a hollow gesture.
Syracuse football is at a major crossroads. Dr. Gross needs to make a quick hire that will satiate the current players and the recruits, and allow for Syracuse to compete on the field immediately. Augustus Edwards has already announced that he will be taking other official visits now. Zach Allen has told Scout.com's Mike McAllister that he is "committed to Syracuse right now but want to see how things play out." Keeping transfers at a minimum and this recruiting class in tact is vital, as we all know from the Ray Rice situation after Coach P was fired. We'll spend plenty of time debating this week whether the hire should be an internal move, or if we should go outside the program.
There is something that we fans can do to aid in keeping Syracuse football afloat. Now, more than ever, we need to buy season tickets and make donations so that the program can build the necessary facilities. If we want a great football program, we may need to build it on our own backs. The fans are the lifeblood of any great team, and right now we need to prove that we want Syracuse football to be great once again. If the University has any trepidation about this, the fans can overtake that by supporting the program at its time of need.