In 2014, Syracuse saw several of its teams reach unprecedented highs in both the polls and, in some cases, their national tournaments. The men's soccer team reached the No. 1 ranking, the women's basketball team won its first NCAA Tournament game and the field hockey team advanced to the national championship.
But as many non-revenue teams dominated, the two highest profile teams have disappointed.
Jim Boeheim's squad followed up an early season tournament exit with three losses in non-conference play. Meanwhile, the football team plummeted to 3-9, with an offense that was, well, offensive. It was a major drop-off after a Final Four finish in 2013 and a Texas Bowl-crowned season in Year One under Scott Shafer.
The varying levels of success for "revenue" and "non-revenue" teams was one of many topics of conversation during Thursday's fan chat between Dr. Daryl Gross and Syracuse.com readers. This week marks his ten-year anniversary as the athletic director at Syracuse, a good time to reflect on his tenure on the Hill. Even as Olympic sports have thrived under Gross, the football program has (arguably) not improved over the past decade.
In the chat, Gross addressed a concern from one commenter who worried that SU is paying "top-dollar" to non-revenue sport coaches, which could jeopardize the ability to pay competitive salaries to the football staff.
All of our Olympic Sports coaches are paid at market value based on talent and performance - with the intention of winning championships. What has been reported in some areas is not accurate. Make no mistake, for football and basketball, they get what they need to retain and hire coaches - we are committed to them to have whatever they need to have success.
Another issue brought up in the fan chat was not only if Syracuse football (or basketball, for that matter) can attract top coaching talent, but maintain it. What happens when a Power 5 team comes after an assistant coach (Hi, Mike Hopkins) and can offer more money? Can Syracuse offer enough?
Yes, in fact we have had several occasions in other sports where we have retained elite assistant coaches. There are many factors that are involved whether assistants move, however we stand committed to doing what is necessary to keep assistant coaches that we want to retain.
Now, there's some validity to the concern about how Syracuse is allocating its resources. As Chris Carlson points out, the university spent $21.2 million on women's sports and nearly $29 million on all of its non-revenue programs in the 2013-14 year. For both categories, Syracuse spent a higher percentage of its budget than every school, except Arizona.
Doug Marrone earned $1.74 million from Syracuse in the last fiscal year, making him 58th in the country and 11th out of 12 publicly listed ACC football head coaches.
Meanwhile, one of Syracuse's highest paid coaches is women's lacrosse coach Gary Gait, who made $716,409 according to the most recently released tax forms. Even though Gait is yet to win a national championship as head coach, he's turned the Orange into a perennial title contender. The team is getting a new locker room, beginning this season.
When asked about his priority as AD, Gross said this:
Increasing resources to support our programs at a championship level. I'm not sure if folks understand the unreal investments people are making in college athletics - especially those that have huge stadiums or are getting 40 million per year in TV revenue.
And then there's women's basketball, a team that has benefitted from investments in the Melo Center with improved recruiting and on-court play. But the past few years of dominance haven't necessarily coincided with increased fan interest. Last season, the Orange averaged a home attendance of 599 fans, about half the total from ten years prior.
Gross' success over the past ten years has come through the development of these non-revenue programs. The challenge of the next ten will be leveraging this success into more revenue and balancing investment in all of Syracuse's programs.