Part I - What Doesn't Work (Tuesday)
Part II - What May Work (Wednesday)
Part III - What Will Work (Thursday)
Yesterday, we trotted out all of the methods employed by Syracuse Orange football to improve the stature of the program that simply have not, and will not, produce results. At least in the short-term. There may come a time when scheduling elite non-conference opponents is necessary to compete for top rankings, but, that day is still a looooong ways away.
Today, let's talk about some positive things. Let's talk about the kinds of changes that Syracuse can implement that may or may not have an affect on the next three years. I've got my eye on one specific idea that I'm going to hold onto because, as far as I'm concerned, it's 99% foolproof. But that's for tomorrow.
In the meantime, let's talk out some ideas and strategies that could help turn Syracuse Football from inconsequential to consistent.
Fire Scott Shafer
Personally, I think this is a pretty dumb road to go down, but, enough people seem worked up enough to have suggested it and so we will discuss the merits of making such a drastic move in Year Two of the Scott Shafer Era.
Calls to fire a coach always come too soon and almost always without deep thought. We don't like the guy, we don't think he deserves another chance to prove himself, so let's get rid of him!
"Okay, who do you want to replace him with?"
That's always where the fun begins because the person who wants to do the firing usually has one of two responses...
1. We need a high-profile hire like Nick Saban or Mike Leach. Or let's roll the dice on Lane Kiffin or Jim Tressel.
2. Hire [Insert Really High-Profile Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Here]
What's really fun about those answers is how ludicrous they both are. Syracuse is never going to attract a high-profile coach like the one you're thinking of. There are always enough opportunities out there to satisfy those types of coaches. Besides, there is a threshold those guys won't go below and Syracuse is below that threshold.
As for the high-profile OC/DC hire, it's basically the same thing. If that coordinator is so good, why would they bother coming here when they're getting calls from Texas or Florida or Michigan?
And then there's this...there are no guarantees when hiring coaches. Nobody knows that better than Syracuse fans. If you lined up the resumes of our last four head coaches before they came to SU, Greg Robinson's would have been the most glowing by far. Doug Marrone? Who the hell was Doug Marrone when he was hired?
So you can fire Shafer if you like, but the underlying assumption that his replacement is bound to be better is just unfounded.
All of that said, yes, it is possible that Syracuse could cut its losses and bring in a mercenary to right the ship. Let's face it, almost every head coach Syracuse hires from here forward will be a mercenary of some kind. Greg Robinson was a mercenary. Had he succeeded, he would have taken the first ACC/B12/B10/P12 job out of town. Doug Marrone, it turns out, was a secret mercenary. He flipped us for an NFL gig the first chance he got. If Scott Shafer turns Syracuse into an elite program and Stanford comes calling, you better believe Scott's wearing an entirely new SU visor the next day.
But maybe that's not a bad thing for Syracuse. At least not right now. Would it be so bad if a coach built our program up to the point where it was a consistent winner and then left? Wouldn't that be a fair trade?
This isn't going to happen right now, but it's possible it could happen after next season. If Syracuse craters out, Shafer might not be afforded the same benefit that GERG got. Time is money and every college football program is two seasons away from turning itself around. Perhaps that's what it will take.
Increase Assistant Coach Pay
There are many rumors about the reasons Doug Marrone was so quick to bolt on his "dream job." He didn't like the media (I don't think he ever will). He didn't like the lack of fan support (dubious). He felt hamstrung by the lack of financial support he was getting from SU Athletics (bingo!).
As a private institution, Syracuse isn't required to report salaries, though they eventually do come out in tax filings a few years after the fact. But what we do know is that Scott Shafer makes in the ballpark of $1M. That's on the low end of ACC coaches and that's fair enough. Jimbo Fisher has a base of $4.1M and Dabo is making a little over $3M.
Unfortunately, there's also a pretty obvious correlation when it comes to money available for assistants. No one's going to make more than the head coach, which means Syracuse is almost certainly going to be on the low end of salary pools. At least one of Clemson's coordinators, if not both, probably make more than Shafer, which sounds crazy but fits with the overall scale considering what the HC makes.
So there's the rub for a guy like Shafer. You want him to hire a high-profile offensive coordinator to run the show and put together a competent attack? Well those guys are used to making high-six-figures, if not more. Why would they come to Syracuse for a base salary of, say, $300K? I'm guessing on that salary but even if its bigger, it can't be by much.
If you've ever wondered why Syracuse routinely skimps on a dedicated special teams coach (even though they desperately need one), it's almost certainly because they're trying to dole out what little money they do have to the position assistants they absolutely need.
This isn't just a Syracuse problem. This report from UNC's student newspaper shows how even they're trailing the big dogs. And again, even if Shafer was handed an extra $500K to spend on assistant coaches, that doesn't guarantee anything. But if you feel like Syracuse needs some serious changes on the offensive side of the ball and you think the best way to make that happen is to bring in a proven, successful offensive mind...you're gonna have to pay for that and right now you can't.
One of the many tidbits I took away from Bleeding Orange was just how important The Melo Center has been to the Syracuse Basketball program. Boeheim credits the facility as a large part of why the program has up-ticked in the last decade. It attracts better recruits, it keeps players happy, it makes practices easier and it separates Syracuse from the pack. It's not the only reason the program has gone to the next level, but, it's part of the package.
Syracuse Football will look to kickstart a new era of good feelings with their upcoming indoor practice facility, set to open in December so that Syracuse can use it to practice for it's bowl ga.....oh right. The 87K sq. ft. facility includes a regulation-size FieldTurf practice field, lockers, storage space and "Plaza 44" with statues of Syracuse's famous 44s.
It's pretty sweet, no doubt about it. It's going to impress some people, namely recruits. And that's the point.
But is it enough? Is this facility pushing Syracuse past a point and giving them an edge or is it just getting us back to the basic minimum requirements of being an ACC program? Is it a perceived advantage or simply the cost of doing business?
Compared to other ACC schools, it's the former in some regards and the latter in others. Not every school can boast a regulation practice field like this but many of them can boast about other amenities not included in ours. Some of the schools that don't have this kind of facility are also in the process of raising money and/or building their own, throwing around numbers similar to or more than what SU is paying.
There will be benefits to the facility and the recent Manley Field House renovations. Syracuse will be able to say it has legitimate facilities for a ACC football program. It has the indoor practice facility it desperately needs. It has new facilities that still shine and feel modern. SUA has put in the work to make Syracuse stand out.
At least for now. But is it a bit like the stadium effect? Everyone loves it for a year and then nobody cares anymore cause there's something else shiny to play with? Tough to say. It might be one of those long-term effects that we'll just have to wait and see for ourselves.
The difference for Jim Boeheim and his basketball program is that before Melo Center opened, SU had a nationally-relevant program that was already pulling in quality players and competing. The Melo Center was the push that helped move the program from great to really great. It's the kind of thing that seals the deal for a top recruit who was already leaning our way to begin with.
The football program is starting from a much lower place on the pole. It's a pretty nice sell to that three-star recruit choosing between SU, Boston College and Rutgers. But is it enough? Does it make the intended impact?
We'll have to wait and see.
Tomorrow...we discuss the one thing Syracuse Football can do that is almost guaranteed to make itself better in a short amount of time.