Syracuse football is among the 20 winning-est programs of all-time. We've won a Heisman Trophy (and should have won two more), a National Championship and have found ourselves in the national spotlight for extended periods of time in the past.
But unfortunately, that's the point: It's all in the past.
Now that doesn't mean Syracuse can't fix itself, improve the football product and get back into fringe top-25 discussions. Sean spelled out the ways in which the Orange can right the ship pretty well a month back. But in terms of our peers -- the other Northeast football programs (or the "Eastern Independents" as we were once known) -- we're falling drastically behind at this very moment. I mean, look around the college football postseason landscape:
Boston College plays Penn State today in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. You know, "OUR" Pinstripe Bowl, in "OUR" city and in "OUR" state. That one. It'll host two of Syracuse's long-time RIVALS/Rivals/rivals, and one of them will go home with a trophy we've claimed twice in recent years.
The State University of New Jersey faced off with North Carolina (of our own ACC) last night, and blew the Tar Heels -- a team that would surely beat SU -- off the map in the Quick Lane Bowl. While we scoff at SUNJ and laugh at their nouveau riche level of moderate success, the fact of the matter is the Scarlet Knights are in a better position than we are. They've played in more bowl games of late, won more games in their first season in a new conference, and on paper, look to be in better shape than our Orange as a program. Their non-conference slate is continually laughable, sure. But it got them this far, and that's further than SU is right now. For the short-term at least, I'll be referring to them as "Rutgers," because like or not, they've earned the right to be referred to by their preferred name.
Pitt, as you're aware, just hired Pat Narduzzi as their new head coach. They're also playing in the Armed Forces Bowl on January 2 -- which doesn't sound like much until you realize that this will be the Panthers' seventh-straight bowl appearance. Sure, very few of those seasons finished with more than six or seven wins. But perception is reality in college football, and a sign of a successful program is postseason appearances. Pitt has a lot more of those than SU has had in the last decade, so Birmingham jokes aside, they're in better shape than we are too.
While the above evidence may seem circumstantial and convenient for a certain line of thought -- remember, I DO NOT want these things to be true. I do not want Syracuse to be seen on a lesser rung of any college football pole, never mind when compared to other, nearby institutions. even the Lambert-Meadowlands Standings (which don't matter in the big scheme of anything), have us dead-last among eligible FBS institutions. Hell, we're behind TEMPLE?!
Obviously small-time things like this can change on a dime in college football, but large-scale change (like Syracuse getting back to being a top-20 program) is a long and arduous slog. This is not a post to put down our Orange (everyone else already does a pretty nice job of that). But rather one to point out that in order to move forward as a program and a fan base, we may want to glance around a bit and see what our neighbors have done. At this point, we're 13 years removed from national relevance, and it may finally be time to accept it and start from scratch -- whatever that may mean. Our peers, like them or not, have earned a higher place in the college football hierarchy for the time being, and we should take note. Either that, or continue to deny the obvious. Whatever helps us move forward and start enjoying this game again.