After the news broke Sunday that Randy Edsall was pulling a Robert Irsay on UConn and leaving for the Maryland job, I tweeted that the "value of a guy like Doug Marrone obvious today." I know nothing's written in stone and you can never say never when it comes to coaches in pro and college sports, but I think it's fair to say that Doug values the fact that he's at Syracuse way more than Edsall ever did at UConn. And there's just no way he'd make a lateral move like that just for money (which I don't blame Edsall for).
Doug Marrone is the rarest of breeds. To him, a spot at the helm of a Big East school is a long-term investment, not a stop on the path to better things. He'll be entering his third season as the head coach at Syracuse next season and already, he's one of the league's elder statesmen in that regard.
Next year, only Greg Schiano and Bill Stewart will have been at their job longer. Since Stewart's a lame duck, that means Marrone will already be the No. 2 tenured coach in the conference by the time the season ends. If Schiano can't get it together in Piscataway in 2011, who knows, Doug might just become the the league's stalwart by season four (though the arrival of Gary Patterson shifts things).
As for Edsall, I suppose there are a few sides here. First of all, I don't think we can blame him for wanting out. But to go to Maryland speaks volumes as to how badly he wanted out, and that's what makes it odd. Maryland just fired Ralph Friedgen because he didn't bring any excitement to the program and he didn't sell tickets. All due respect to Edsall but...neither does he. Maryland fans seem to be warily pleased with the decision and I'm sure Edsall can succeed there. But couldn't he have done the same at UConn?
As for how he left the Huskies, that seems to be the sorest part of the story. Just hours after the Fiesta Bowl, Esdall surprising everyone. Including his own players.
"It really pisses me off because he made [running back] Jordan [Todman] address the team last night to say he was leaving [for the NFL draft]," said the freshman, who also expressed his desire to transfer. "And he isn't man enough to do it face to face to us?
"A lot of people were just really upset by the call. He made Todman get up and tell the whole team: 'Jordan, I think you have something to say to these guys.' He made him do it face-to-face. But he didn't do it face-to-face."
What is the best way for a head coach to leave his program? Is it better to pull a Brian Kelly and leave weeks before the bowl game? Better to wait until right after and leave under cover of darkness? The way the cycle works, there's just no easy way to do it. That said, you'd like the think the guy who drills accountability and leadership into your skull for four years has the guts to tell you he's about to leave before he actually does.
But here the Huskies sit, at the highest point they've ever been less than 24 hours after playing in the Fiesta Bowl. And still Edsall chose to leave for what looks like mostly a lateral move. You have to wonder if he thinks Connecticut has already reached its ceiling as a program.
Don't think everyone else wasn't thinking he same thing. And don't think that's not every Big East assistant coach's pitch right now as the scour the Northeast for UConn commits and recruits.
Shifting gears, we can't have a conversation about Big East coaches and not discuss already-former Pitt head coach Mike Haywood. If Pitt was going to fire Wanny, they knew they needed to make an impact with his replacement. Well, they certainly did that. And now they find themselves fighting with UConn for "the next, great coach" weeks after all the best candidates are taken (though they better do whatever they have to get Tom Bradley).
Two major Big East programs are messes at the top, both for different reasons. As weird and strange those situations are, however, it's all good news for Syracuse (and USF and Louisville). Pitt is a jumbled mess, UConn's rep is taking a hit and that means two more programs are likely to take a step back in 2011. The road to the Big East might very well go through Syracuse in 2011. They and USF have to be considered favorites if for no other reason than the stability going into the year.
Long way to go until December but these are strange days in the conference. TCU must be licking their chops for the shot to dive into this mess. In the meantime, 2011 is looking more and more like the perfect chance for Syracuse to make the leap. Doug Marrone's already one of the league's elders, time to become one of its champions as well.