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Slack-ing Off With Sean & John: Syracuse's Athletic Director Search

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Each week, we'll take you behind the curtain to see how the TNIAAM sausage gets made...

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Every day, the TNIAAM staff uses real-time messaging service Slack to make up for their lack of geographic proximity. This can result in conversations that have a lot to do with Syracuse... or little to do with Syracuse. Our (hopefully) weekly feature, Slack-ing off, captures those conversations so you can relive every moment. Sorry in advance.

John Cassillo (12:07 p.m.)

Let's start with the question on every Syracuse fan's minds as we head into the weekend... Who is Kaitlyn sending home on the Bachelorette this week?

Sean Keeley (12:17 p.m.)

Well obviously Ian leaves. Fuck that guy. Deal with your own shit, dude. Not Kaitlyn's fault you feel like a dork. We know Nick and Shaun are safe for now. The Bens are in good shape. Literally. Jared's doing work. JJ has somehow become more tolerable (thanks to editing, I think). I gotta imagine Joshua's gone. No coming back from that. I feel bad for him cause he's this year's Guy Who Got Way Too Caught Up In An Ethics Issue That's Ultimately Not A Big Deal and as soon as he realized he overstepped, he regretted it. I think Corey is probably on the chopping block as well. I forget he's even there and I think Kaitlyn does the same. How 'bout you?

johncassillo (12:27 p.m.): I'm on board with most of that, though I never really got to publicly express my disappointment for sending Clint home. I was a big fan of the "Clint and JJ Show" and hope it returns for Bachelor in Paradise (or just a primetime sitcom slot on ABC -- either/or). Josh is gone, and I'm actually impressed the rest of the group had the wherewithal to just let him hang himself while he played "right reasons" police. Corey's certainly out, and I didn't really remember much from Jonathan or Tanner this week, but that could just be me not paying attention in spots (it IS a two-hour show, after all).

This is a perfect tie-in to the thing those five Syracuse fans who haven't already clicked off are ACTUALLY concerned about, however... the Orange AD search. A lot of people who COULD be candidates out in the open, but the favorite's pretty hidden (maybe even in plain sight). Are you impressed with the lock-and-key approach we've seen from this search given SU's typical propensity for leaks?

smkeeley (12:31 p.m.): It's somewhat impressive but also a little disappointing. If this were Texas or Ohio State, you'd have people tracking flights and speculating like crazy and writing articles about how the AD hire will change the college football landscape. It's a stark reminder of SU's place in the overall heirarchy. It's also been a little humbling given our correlation with Pitt, who also just hired an AD using the same search firm. Their candidates were all guys from big programs and/or with major milestones to their credit. The guys in the running for our job seem to be under-the-radar and/or unknowns. Ultimately that might not matter but for such an important position, it's sure been a quiet affair. Would you have preferred to see some more fireworks with this hire?

johncassillo (1:08 p.m.): I mean, maybe? I'm a fireworks-type guy by and large, so yeah... nothing wrong with some fanfare. You how Florida hired Jim McElwain this past offseason. Real-time updates that fueled excitement around the eventual hire and got fans really riled up (in a good way). I get we're moving away from waste, #BRAND and tooting our own horn after the NCAA sanctions, but I'd be fine with us getting some names out in the open as part of an actual, coordinated communications plan (to engage the fan base). No, we're not hiring a big-name AD candidate at this point. Now I'm just looking for someone who can a) keep us on the right side of the law in terms of the NCAA, b) help fix football and c) stay out of the headlines. So maybe SU's doing exactly what I want them to do?

smkeeley (2;07 p.m.): I think that's the point. In a reaction to not only the sanctions but also the big and bold marketing style of DOC Gross, expect the new AD to be more academic-focused and low key in general. That said, you're right about football. The focus HAS to be on football and I don't mean that as a "football rules, everything else sucks" bro. It's the engine that drives everything else. It means more money for everything else and it helps grow the profile of the university quicker than anything this side of James Arthur Boeheim. The issue for us is, as it has been for a long time, patience. We 're out of it, but we have to find a way to have more of it. The issues that plague our football program don't get fixed overnight. Well, they do if you hire Urban Meyer but SU can't do that for a variety of reasons.

So when this new AD is hired, what's the first thing you want them to say publicly?

johncassillo (2:14 p.m.): I don't need them to acknowledge the past mistakes of the athletic department, for one. Those have been covered by the NCAA, us, Syracuse.com, ESPN... basically everyone but the previous athletic department. So now that we've set the old regime adrift, let's just focus on the future. Any statement should focus on football, while a) incorporating following NCAA rules, b) the next steps for the Carrier Dome and c) a renewed focus on local fans and the community. I don't want to hear any mentions of #BRAND, please. Just give us some insight on how you might approach fixing football, then fade into the background and get to work. We promise we'll let you be effective while spending minimal time in the public eye, honest.

So given all that: Who do you think we end up hiring? Or do you think the candidates out there are so far off the mark it's not even worth guessing?

smkeeley (2:46 p.m.): I honestly have no read on who they're going to hire. I wouldn't be surprised if it's someone we're not even considering, especially since all of the people we do think are in the running seem to drop away. I personally don't know if any of the stated candidates are qualified or not so I don't know how excited or disappointed I'll be whoever they hire. It's more about how that person sets the tone from that point forward. Like you said, SU has some very specific athletic needs and focuses that this person has to prove rather quickly they know what they're doing.

Scaling back a little bit, there's a lot of negative feelings out there about the football team headed into this season. Do you think we're starting to overdo it a bit? Like, we know we're not gonna win the ACC but are we sounding the alarm way too soon as a fanbase? We really don't seem to be taking into account the possibility that certain players will have improved, which, you know, happens. Are we treating a 6-6 team like a 3-9 team for no reason?

johncassillo (3:39 p.m.): Interesting phrasing there, since last year's team was 3-9, but arguably performed like a team that was anywhere from 2-10 to 6-6. Half the fan base has been seeing so many 3-9/4-8 predictions that they're convinced of it, while the other half has been shouted down from 6-6 so many times, that they believe 4-8. This fan base (and I, in particular) have a tendency to be overly negative, but only part of that is a factor here. This team was bad last year and now adds a new offensive scheme on one side and a lot of new personnel on the other. Either that makes for addition by subtraction or subtraction by subtraction. If you believe in Shafer, it's the former. If you don't, it's the latter.

But I know you typically exist in the middle rather than the fringes. So how about yourself? What do you think the fan base is overreacting to? (if anything)

smkeeley (3:46 p.m.): Well, I don't necessarily know if we're overreacting because, quite frankly, I could see us going 3-9 again right now. That said, I do know that there's two things everyone always forgets before a season starts. First, that sometimes people get better at the thing they used to not be good at. Coaches get better at managing situations. Quarterbacks get better at making plays. Defenders get better at making stops. It actually happens and it's hard to predict. Second, Syracuse is just one of those programs that seems to do better when there's no expectation to do so. It was the hallmark of the Coach P Era. Marrone had a way of getting the team going right when things looked bleakest. There's no rhyme or reason to it and I don't have any proof it can happen this season, but, there you go. Plus, this is college football and weird shit happens in college football all the time. The idea of Syracuse beating FSU or Clemson is insane....and yet...there's an entire list of upsets just as insane that actually happened.

All of that said, I will not be surprised at all when this team finishes 4-8.

Flip-side...let's say Syracuse comes out guns blazing and starts 5-1. Contract extension for Shafer right there and then? Especially knowing what's coming and that he won't be able to maintain the record...

johncassillo (3:54 p.m.): Eek. Especially without the early signing period, I don't know...

smkeeley (4:03 p.m.): Yeah, I think it's still a tough sell. Though, if he gets out of this season with five wins, that's plenty to save his hide, especially with the recruiting class coming in. Agree?

johncassillo (4:04 p.m.): Reluctantly agree. Though 5-1 to 5-7 certainly doesn't excite me.

smkeeley (4:05 p.m.): Yeah, that's the only problem with a hot start. We all forget about it by the time we've lost five in a row.

johncassillo (4:05 p.m.): /thinks about 2011

//dies