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It's Time for Syracuse to Make a Choice: "Football School" or Irrelevance

Syracuse athletics may be at a crossroads. What happens next could decide a whole lot in terms of its future...

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

As we all know, Syracuse basketball stands to potentially be crippled by the NCAA's sanctions (as they currently stand). Losing 12 scholarships over a four-year stretch is no laughing matter, and the effects of those (again, if that number isn't reduced in appeals) lost scholarships will be felt far past those four seasons. Orange basketball isn't dead in the water, by any means, but it's unlikely we see the level of success fans have grown accustomed to over the last five or six years.

Maybe we're not a basketball school anymore.

... Or at least, perhaps that's the message both fans and Syracuse athletics should take to heart for the time being. Having trouble succeeding at the highest level in basketball isn't the same as a death penalty for the program by any means. But given the uphill battle we'll face there, maybe it's time -- at least for right now -- to focus on getting football out of the extended funk it's been in for 15 years and into a new period of success.


While the ACC invited us for our basketball prowess (AND TV MARKET), it's still a football conference and football, as we all know, drives the freight in terms of college athletics. Just look at our own Syracuse University's spending. Despite a stress on hoops over football, SU still spent $23.6 million on the latter in 2013-14 -- fifth-most (!!!) in the conference. Now, we can wring our hands about that figure and the lack of results that came with it all we want, but the fact of the matter is that SU is going to have to spend similarly (and intelligently) for several years more to really "get" this whole power conference thing. The program's not going to die if we don't do so, mind you. But... there's really no good that can come from being weak/irrelevant in the ACC's two main sports. Our pals at Wake Forest -- also a basketball-focused private school to a degree -- have been down-and-out in both sports for several seasons in a row now, and many (justly or unjustly) look/have looked at them as an afterthought in the league. The way to avoid being an afterthought? Spend money.

Going back to Wake Forest, they made an excellent hire in Danny Manning, and I think that's going to turn things around in terms of Deacons basketball. The jury's still out on Dave Clawson in football, but hopes are high. Even across the #OrangeEagle aisle, you can see how proper football spending/decision-making turns things around quickly. Boston College went from the perception of program-wide disaster when football AND basketball were bad, to a "football program" again with just one hire: Steve Addazio. Is Scott Shafer that guy for Syracuse (TBD...)? Is the new indoor practice facility the answer for attracting better talent? Is the 2015 recruiting class the start of marked improvement on that front?

Unfortunately, we can only say "we'll see" for now, and hope that Syracuse finds ways to intelligently invest more funds in football's success. No, we're not on our way to being the next Florida State or even Louisville just yet, but dedicating the athletic program to doing what DOCTOR Gross was supposed to do to begin with -- that's a start right there. And if this athletic program is going to survive the next decade (relatively speaking, not literally), that's really the only way forward.

So scoff all you want. And doubt SU's ability to get back to previous football heights (as you should) all you like as well. But the Orange are at a crossroads now, and it's no longer an option which side they need to focus more time, money and energy on. The athletic program has hung on for the last 15 years because of basketball. Now, it's football turn to keep this ship afloat -- at least for now.