New Syracuse Athletic Director Mark Coyle's top priority is Orange football. But the same was said of DOCTOR Daryl Gross, who proceeded to oversee SU's worst decade on the gridiron in a very long time (perhaps ever).
Plenty of ideas have been thrown around about how to go about improving Syracuse football to its previous place of prominence. Sean's own series of thoughts are particularly informative for those who want to look at this from a practical point of view. Expanding upon those, however, there's a very clear case study about how those steps and others can be taken to fix things.
I'm talking, of course, about Baylor.
I mean, look at this quote from SB Nation's Bill Connelly, who posted his Bears season preview this past Friday:
Still, I trust Baylor more than any other team in the Big 12. As crazy as that may have been to type five years ago, it's true. If you forced me to bet my life savings on a Big 12 team making a Playoff run this year (and I'd appreciate it if you didn't), I'm picking Briles' Bears.
Think about that. Baylor, which registered zero winning seasons from 1996-2009, and last finished in the AP Top 10 back in 1951, has become an annual College Football Playoff contender. Only recently have the Bears gotten above .500 in program history. This Waco, Tex. private school with a fairly small (for FBS) enrollment of just over 16,000 and zero history of success in college football is mixing it up with the sport's power players, and in half the time Oregon pulled off something similar (and as a state school).
The answers could probably tell Syracuse everything they need to know about how to fix football. Seriously. Just copy and paste the following:
Even a fairly new member of the site knows my passionate pleas for easier scheduling. We may laugh at the NC States and Rutgers of the world for cakewalk slates year after year, BUT those programs are currently regarded in higher standing than we are. NC State's even seen as a "dark horse" candidate to win the ACC. More accurately, though, we need to be emulating the scheduling tactics of schools like Duke (which won the Coastal Division in 2013 after two decades of losing) and of course, Baylor. Read this article about how scheduling has contributed to the Bears' huge turnaround. I'll wait here...
Some of those things were, of course, beyond Baylor's control. But overall, the point stands: easier scheduling directly corresponded to more success in terms of wins and losses. Minimizing power conference opponents was one of the biggest notes there, and it's one Syracuse can jump on right away. Beyond the Notre Dame games, let's look for lesser squads to fill out all of those P5 schedule requirements since, y'know, we have so many openings.
This one is still TBD right now for Syracuse. But obviously, it's working for Baylor at the moment. Since Art Briles left Houston for Waco in 2008, the Bears are 55-34 with two conference championships and a Heisman Trophy winner. And it's because of a high-powered offensive attack, which has now become an intrinsic part of the program's identity. Or even #BRAND, if you will. As SI.com's Andy Staples described BU last month:
"The most Texas of all the teams in the Lone Star State, right down to the coach who is the living embodiment of what would have happened had coach Eric Taylor stayed at TMU instead of returning to Dillon in the TV version of Friday Night Lights. The Bears run the wildest and weirdest of all the up-tempo offenses. The fact that Art Briles has created this identity for Baylor after the program spent decades as a doormat is nothing short of amazing."
See, it's perfect for them, just like a commitment to #hardnosed, defensive-minded football could be a true identity for us (coupled with a competent offense, of course). And all of this for Baylor without elite-level recruiting, for the most part. The Bears are just 39th in five-year recruiting rank, and 32nd in two-year measures. Like Oregon, they're doing it with private school-level interest, money and facilities. Which brings us, of course to:
Syracuse's long-awaited indoor practice facility opened its doors back in December, and recruits already seem impressed by the upgraded digs. There are also those murmurs about a Carrier Dome renovation hanging around campus, which is an obvious need and one that could also help boost the program's image. Funny enough, Baylor's also made its own facilities upgrades. This stadium is... pretty impressive. I mean:
Stunning McLane Stadium along the Brazos River in Waco, #Texas The new home of @BaylorAthletics football. pic.twitter.com/kziyzj4cVz— Campus Sports (@CampusSportsNet) June 10, 2015
SU doesn't have waterfront property to put any renovated or replaced Carrier Dome on, but by and large, a better-looking stadium could be another small move in the larger equation to program improvement. For Baylor, it was sort of the last aesthetic change to go with a new and improved football brand and identity. Maybe for Syracuse, if they can get the other things in line, a refreshed football stadium could work to do something similar.
Now, to beat several people to the punch: I'm aware Baylor is located in Texas, one of the country's top recruiting hotbeds. And Syracuse is located in New York, which is decidedly not one of those spots for elite college football talent. But, the Bears' starting point was arguably lower than what SU's dealing with right now. And until recently, the amount of support and talent the Orange had/have at the NFL level was a hell of a lot higher too (which should mean more money available for football). The point is, while Syracuse looks down, Baylor was further buried, yet they fixed it in very short order. Sure, we can probably look to a school like Duke and their recent football success as a more attainable goal, but why not aim for the heights Baylor's reached beyond that?