The one question that no one knows the answer to is also the one thing most of us think we're experts in: Who will replace Scott Shafer as Syracuse University's football head coach?
If you read a comment on a post somewhere you'll see that Scott Frost should be the guy. Or, click to a different page, and it's Mike Sanford. A tweet will pop up and all of a sudden Lane Kiffin is suddenly in the mix. It's either the next hot assistant or it's an upcoming-and-coming younger coach coming to central New York. Or it's Les Miles.
Just like in 2005, when everyone assumed fairly-new-to-the-job Daryl Gross would bring in someone like Norm Chow to take over for Paul Pasqualoni. Whoops! Instead we got the poo-poo platter of Greg Robinson and assistants. And while Doug Marrone's name eventually started popping up in stories back in 2009, most Orange followers didn't expect the former Orangeman to take over the reigns. An eventual pleasant surprise.
Basically, every one of us, when projecting ahead, are completely and totally guessing. Hell, athletic director Mark Coyle probably has an idea of a few names, but I'm guessing he is pretty up in the air about it. He should be, too, because the next few weeks will hopefully take Coyle in a lot of different directions. Maybe he'll fly to Oregon to talk to Frost, or give South Bend a call to speak with Sanford. But he'll probably also be searching elsewhere. A lot of elsewheres. Because the next guy truly has to be the right guy.
Would Coyle survive if he pulls a Gross and somehow hires Robinson 2.0? Maybe. But as Syracuse football is constituted, the next hire has to be the last hire. For a while, anyway. Because this guy will be the fifth head coach since 2004. Because SU hasn't been ranked since 2002. Because the program has had losing records in eight of the last eleven seasons. Because fans aren't even angry anymore, they're seemingly just fed up.
It's almost as if a bad marriage is finally getting to the point where divorce isn't the just the best option, it's the only option. An annulling of the recent past. "Let's just pretend that all of this didn't happen." We've seen multiple times this season less than 30,000 fans inside the Carrier Dome for a football game. A lot of people going on with their life, like SU football doesn't exist. Really, before news broke that Shafer was ousted, I was expecting a crowd of less than 25K for Boston College this weekend. Imagine that? A season finale against an old rival, a conference foe, and seeing a crowd on par with a mid-January basketball game?
Shafer wasn't the cause of the apathy, it started decades ago, really. But he clearly just wasn't the guy to get the job done. He was fiery in his emotions, and his passion bubbled over, which was both a good and bad quality. But above all, it made Shafer human in ways most coaches are never seen. Typically, they're robots out there, pacing the sidelines and chomping gum, and then going monotone through excruciatingly painful press conferences. Not Shafer, though. He was loud and sometimes abrasive. Sometimes he was right to be, most often he was probably wrong to be that way. But that was him and that made him enjoyable: He is human.
Sadly, though, giving coaches some personification doesn't mean you'll win games. And that's all the really matters. Victories gets people interested, gets them spending discretionary money again. And that's why this is all so important for Coyle. Football doesn't really "drive the bus at Syracuse," but it's still the one program that brings in the most money -- and it should be bringing in a whole lot more. It's not about hiring someone with "northeast ties" or getting a "Syracuse guy" back in charge. It's about hiring the guy who has the right game plan, a three or four year vision, about what it will realistically take to get SU football back to six to eight wins on a regular basis.
And those ideas will have to translate to year one on the job. Because it appears, rightfully so, that the fan base isn't really willing to stick around for more rebuilding. It's been over a decade of it. By now, Syracuse football should be a freaking mansion, with cathedral ceilings and multiple swimming pools, maybe even a bowling alley. But instead, Syracuse football better resembles a shack on the bad part of town. A shack on the bad part of town that has been on fire for years and no one seems to care to actual stop the burning.
It's on Coyle to fix it. It's also on the administration to aid in any way possible. It's really on everyone within Syracuse University that has the power to help to do just that: help. That means being ready to pay for what you want, because we've all seen how the alternative works here. Syracuse has paid for losses. Way too many loses. If you want to win football games, and it seems like SU does since it keeps firing coaches, then you have to actually give some real-life money to the person in charge. Syracuse is notorious for not ponying up -- see the last few coaches.
It's time to finally change all of that. At least, it's time to finally look like Syracuse is trying to change all of that. And it doesn't matter if the answer comes in the form of an assistant from Over There or the coach from Here. The truth is, no one will care of the new guy's origins so as long as he shows Syracuse wants to win and is capable of winning. Do whatever it takes to solve the riddles and get fans back. That is, if it's not already too late. I'm afraid to find out the answer to that one.