Ohio State defeated Oregon, 42-20 in Arlington, Tex. last night. You're well aware of this result, and what it means: the Buckeyes are the first College Football Playoff National Champs and the sport's "bluebloods" club fails to gain a new member yet again. That second piece is the most important bit of information for Syracuse, of course...
Since DOCTOR Gross arrived, he's done a lot of good for Syracuse athletics, much of which has also been attached to #BRAND. From "New York's College Team," to those nationally-televised games against tough opponents and of course, this past season's new football uniforms -- everything is about Syracuse's perception and improving its station in the college sports (especially football) world. The problem? That model may not truly work.
Now this is not to make a sweeping statement about Oregon's loss and what it means for the nouveau riche in college football. Oregon's surge of success over the last 15 years has been about much more than t-shirts and marketing campaigns and brightly-colored jerseys. But lost in all of the neon green jerseys and the cult-like following they Ducks have generated has been the crux of all of their success. Money.
Oregon, they of utter mediocrity for nearly a century, have been able to knock on the door of the sport's most elite club because of money -- Phil Knight's first and foremost. Many schools have tried to emulate the model, but most forget that element in favor of the t-shirts and jerseys and gear. Oregon dumped MILLIONS into facilities and staff. MILLIONS into marketing. MILLIONS into just about everything involved with that program. And even then, they're still come up short of a title just twice, with zero championships to their name. That's it.
So why is Syracuse still chasing this model when at the same time, they also won't commit to the most important elements of it?
Of course I'd love to see Syracuse experience even part of the success Oregon has seen lately. But the Orange can't/won't spend the money to be in the same stratosphere. They've only recently managed to produce a decent amount team merchandise I'd be tempted to buy... yet, it's a program that believes itself to be just steps/jersey variations away from being the "next big thing." Oregon has more resources, yet are still steps away. And it's not because they need more money or facilities or jersey colors. It's all about recruits.
As SB Nation's own Bud Elliott pointed out in the latter stages of last night's game, the talent you bring in the door is really what decides championships at the end of the day. So while Oregon may have appeared to have won the marketing game leading up to last night, it's the traditional power Ohio State (who still has a pretty nice marketing budget, by the way) that came away with the ultimate victory. And why? Talent, in the form of a ton of four- and five-star recruits.
So Syracuse, if we're going to go the Oregon route, let's go all-in, find the money, wear the neon and then have some sort of success to go with it. But if we're smart, there IS another method of doing things. Schedule better, recruit better, rinse and repeat. No, I'm not saying we're contending for a national title should we do those things -- we're not, by the way. However, in a season which continued to surprise around just about every turn, I think there was a lot to learn for the Orange in particular. We're at a crossroads, and both of our options were splayed out for us tonight. Flashy, new #BRAND or traditional, talent-rich and boring? I don't know about you, but I kind of like the latter better. I guess we'll see... though whichever we choose, can we PLEASE put some money behind that choice? For me?