The Syracuse Orange won't win nine games this season, obviously. But they also haven't won nine games in any season post-2001 (when they went 10-3). That stretch is one of the longest such streaks in the country, if you didn't know. But, it gets worse...
- 100 (!!!) different football programs have recorded at least one nine-win season in that stretch of time. That's over 77 percent of the 129 programs that have played a down at the FBS level (the current 128, plus UAB).
- Syracuse is one of just four power conference programs to fall short of at least one nine-win season in that stretch. The others? Kentucky, Indiana and Iowa State.
This isn't to belabor the point that the state of Syracuse football is bad right now. It's to hammer home the point that it's BEEN bad, and that's also unacceptable. Have fans just gotten used to mediocrity? Maybe. Have we come up with every excuse as to why we're not succeeding? Completely. Have other programs with similar situations passed us by in the meantime? Unfortunately.
To put the above numbers into smaller-scale comparisons that really exhibit the depth of the crisis going on with Syracuse football, a look at some of our typical excuses/self-bargaining as to why the Orange have fallen on hard times:
Stuck in the Big East during most of this stretch, from 2002-2012
In that timeframe, 12 different programs competed in the Big East. Yet, Syracuse is the only one that didn't hit the nine-win mark. Some of these were in the Big East longer than others, but the point stands. It wasn't as big of an inhibitor to success as we may make it appear. Below shows how many nine-win seasons each of those programs has amassed since 2002:
It's tough to recruit quality players in the Northeast
As a group, we seem resigned to the fact that the Northeast is a built-in disadvantage in terms of recruiting football players, and that's not necessarily false. But it's also not impossible to convince quality players to come to/stay in the Northeast. And it's especially possible to win with them. Here's how nearby programs have done during this stretch:
Syracuse is one of just three Northeast programs without a nine-win season in that stretch. The others -- Buffalo and UMass -- are not what we should be aspiring to. UMass is also in year three of a terrible decision to jump up to FBS. If Temple and UConn can do it TWICE (and that's before we even get to Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers and BC), Syracuse should be able to win nine games more than once every 15 years.
Being a private school makes recruiting harder
This one gets bandied about a lot, and well... it's a cop-out. Syracuse is a private school, yes. But outside of certain disciplines, it's not impossible to get into the school at all, especially when compared to other private universities that play at the FBS level. On top of that, there are plenty of public schools with high admissions standards as well. As an alum myself, I'm not saying it's "easy" to get into Syracuse. But let's agree that all private schools are not created equal. Here's how others have done with the same "limitations":
Just three FBS private schools have failed to hit the nine-win mark: Syracuse, Tulane and SMU. The other two have dealt with the fallout from a devastating natural disaster in its city (Tulane) and the remnants of an NCAA death penalty (SMU). Jokes aside about GERG being a "death penalty" for the Orange football program, what's our excuse for letting Duke, Wake Forest, Northwestern or Vanderbilt succeed at a higher level. It's tougher to get into those schools. Admissions standards are not Syracuse's inhibitor to success.
There's plenty more ways we can break down this data (here's the full list, if you want to see it). But it doesn't change the fact that the Orange have fallen short of the baseline of what should be expected of an FBS program. We can (and should) blame GERG, and point a finger at Coach P for allowing the slip to start. And you can tell Doug Marrone he "didn't finish the job" if that's what you need to. But focusing on the here and now, it's time we ask ourselves: "are we okay with the state of this program?" If the answer is no (and it likely is): "is Scott Shafer the answer to our problems?"
I'm honestly not sure of that answer, though like the rest of you, I certainly started sliding more firmly onto the "no" side of things following Saturday's debacle. This isn't a call to fire Shafer at all. It's an examination of what's happened before and with him, and how that compares to the rest of the country's outcomes in the same time frame. Troy, Kent State, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, Purdue and more are all on a list counting success that Syracuse can't claim its own membership to. Do with that what you will.