Under former athletic director DOCTOR Daryl Gross, Syracuse fans were very familiar with the concept of #BRAND. Not the successful execution of it, mind you. Or the actual, tangible results, either. But we knew that #BRAND had to be the "most important part" of a college football program -- from their visual appearance, to its marketing, to its perceived location -- even more so than the on-field performance.
We've laughed and scoffed at the concept. We've celebrated its successes. Belabored its heavy-handedness. And then sent it out to sea when Gross himself left in a fit of #BRAND-a-palooza.
It wasn't necessarily wrong. It just wasn't implemented correctly by the previous administration. Luckily, new AD Mark Coyle already seems to understand that. You can cultivate a #BRAND. It just needs to be in the right places and with the right people. It also needs to be based in something... ANYTHING, really.
So what is Syracuse's #BRAND supposed to be?
In a very interesting post from SI.com's Andy Staples today, he asks the same question -- and looks what what it actually is, too. He evaluates every Power Five school. But when it comes t Syracuse, he's certainly not wrong...
First, what it is:
The brand: Coach Scott Shafer laid out an exciting vision during his introductory press conference in January 2013. The main theme was his use of the phrase "hard-nosed," but he also said this of the offense: "I want this team to be an offensive unit that when you come and watch them play you better not take a bathroom break. ’Cause there’s gonna be a lot of juice on the field." Shafer was having some fun there—he hadn’t even hired an offensive coordinator at the time—but his team hasn’t been particularly hard-nosed in its first two years in the ACC. And instead of leaving juice on the field, the offense has mostly left behind points. The Orange went 4-4 in league play in ’13 and 1-7 in ’14. Last year, Syracuse finished 13th in the ACC and 118th in the nation in scoring at 17.1 points a game. Meanwhile, a defense that kept things from getting a lot worse must replace its top five tacklers.
And here's where he envisions it, in a best-case (or at least, realistic) scenario:
What it should be: The administration’s decision to restore No. 44—the number of Ernie Davis, Jim Brown and Floyd Little—would have offered an excellent reminder that Syracuse is a program of trailblazers and all-time greats. But after complaints, the administration declared No. 44 would only be awarded to a current player in a "special circumstance." It may seem like a little thing, but a lot of football players would grind hard for the opportunity to wear the number Ernie Davis wore at the school. Giving that number each year to the player who best embodies what the program is about would be more special than simply hanging the number in the Carrier Dome. Though college football recruiting is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, Syracuse needs to offer some reminders that it was once one of the sport’s great programs. With most of the best recruits in warm-weather states and few nearby, Syracuse has to overcome its location. But that is possible.
ANDY, YOU GET US!
Now, Staples isn't a Syracuse alum. He doesn't read this blog, or Syracuse.com, or any other Orange news source every day like you or I do (you do read this blog every day, right?). But the one thing he knows for sure about the SU football program is the importance of the number 44, and how it links the program's storied past to its present and future.
This should sound very familiar... The celebrations around 44 -- before we found out it was un-retired and when it was unretired -- were phenomenal. The disappointment when Syracuse backtracked was stunning. If that wasn't a hint to the university that 44 still matters, I'm not sure what will hammer that point home.
The rest of Staples's piece is also well worth a read, just to see how lackluster programs like Oregon, Baylor and others have ascended with the help of #BRAND. So in that respect. you can understand how and why Gross thought of going that route for the Orange. But the problem, as we've discussed, is that Syracuse was NOT one of those programs, and its cache is based in its past. If SU can start embracing all of that a bit more, maybe -- just maybe -- we'll finally realize the #BRAND we're supposed to.
... Or not. What do you think, though?