DOCTOR Daryl Gross leaves behind a complicated legacy after a decade running Syracuse Orange Athletics. The program looks vastly different than when he started. In many ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.
Soon, Syracuse University will hire a new Athletic Director, and that person will come into one hell of a situation. You'll have to deal with the ongoing fallout of the NCAA sanctions while also trying to maintain the momentum of Olympic sports success and finding a way to finally turn the football program into a consistent winner (and money generator). That doesn't even include the impending departure of the person who is basically the face of your basketball program (and to some, the entire school).
While we don't have all the answers, we do have some thoughts about how this new AD should get started and how they can focus their initial efforts to get off on the right foot.
Respect the past and represent the future...only this time ACTUALLY respect the past and represent the future! I am 100% behind the kind of innovative and forward thinking that was often seen as a strength of Gross' tenure at SU, but far too often it felt like he lacked respect for our traditions, culture and history... Sure there were very public screw ups like the Bouie jersey fiasco, but the general sense I got from he and Giansante was that we as a community were a bunch of yokels who should just shut up and not question their decisions. Our next AD will inherit a struggling football program, an elite basketball program embroiled in sanctions and a primary facility -- The Carrier Dome -- losing its luster fast. To navigate these challenges and improve these key areas, he/she will need to navigate across political, student, alumni, community and administrative lines. And to navigate effectively, he/she HAS to demonstrate a fundamental respect and understanding of those constituencies before making those innovative decisions that will determine our long term success.
Let's just make it simple to start. Embrace the color orange. Don't run away from it. Don't relegate it to an accent color on the football uniforms. You'd be amazed at how much that will actually help the Syracuse #brand.
Get a good sense of what the Syracuse students, community and alumni want out of the athletic program (football finally turning it around for good is near the top of that list, but not the only thing). At the end of the day, they're the lifeblood of Orange sports, and your success or failure really does ride on their support. We're at a crossroads and the only way we get through it looking well is with an AD that understands his or her constituents.
Recognize that while your predecessor did a lot of good things to move the program forward, he also did one thing that ensured he would take the fall if and when anything went wrong...he alienated the fanbase. While forward movement shouldn't be halted by tradition at every turn, there's a conversation to be had about what's important and what's not important. And if you're going to call on Syracuse fans to be The 12th Man or a vital part of the program's success, you need to take our input into consideration, especially since we're the ones plunking down money for season tickets, t-shirts (you're going to make SO MANY T-SHIRTS) and everything else. Not to say you have to run all your decisions by us, nor should you, but let us be part of the process. Take the temperature before changing traditions, affecting rivalries and determining where and how we can consume Syracuse sporting events. It's amazing how much more accepting a fanbase can be when it feels like it's part of the plan and not an agitation that needs to be forced into submission because, as the previous regime often reminded us, "people don't really understand."
How about you? What's the one piece of advice you'd give the new AD?