We've previously derided the concept of #BRAND at this humble blog. And with good reason. DOCTOR Daryl Gross's vision for the Syracuse Orange worked in some respects (we ARE in the ACC now, after all), and failed in others (lost the community fan base). But at the end of the day, the signs on top of taxis and at Yankee Stadium, and the garish uniforms failed to really establish a #BRAND for the most important asset Syracuse has: the football program.
But that doesn't mean #BRAND can't work. This fall, UNLV may end up rewriting the script on how to do it correctly.
In an SB Nation exclusive on Wednesday, we saw the first glimpses of a cash-flush Rebels program under the guidance of former high school coach Tony Sanchez. Sanchez, with the help of some VERY wealthy boosters, turned Nevada's Bishop Gorman Catholic into a juggernaut -- in a NON-hotbed area for high school OR college football. Now, at UNLV, that reputation and some of the money will join him to
rejuvenate (I know, not a word) a program located near one of the country's top selling points for 18- to 22-year old men:
The Las Vegas Strip.
He knows it, and now the team's #BRAND knows it too. The team's field and uniforms now reek of the Strip -- it's glitz, gold, gambling and most importantly, its promise of future fortunes. Programs like Oregon and Boise State have proven you don't need to be located in recruiting hotbeds to find success. UNLV can take that model AND offer something neither of those schools can. They're "Las Vegas's College Team," except they don't need the taxis and the slogan to get that point across, because the school's actual name is University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
So 300 words in, what does this have to do with Syracuse? Well, nothing. And everything, really. Like we said awhile back when Andy Staples examined every power school's respective #BRAND, "New York's College Team" was great for some attention when we needed it most (realignment-palooza). But with that time behind us, the focus needs to be on the history of this program and what Syracuse -- the school, the team and the city -- can offer kids. No, the Salt City is not Las Vegas. Not by a long shot. But selling kids on 44, and Floyd Little being on campus are not difficult propositions. We don't have to scale back the "New York" messaging. Just need to understand its place in the larger picture that is playing for the Syracuse Orange football team.
Sanchez is probably going to succeed with the "embracing Vegas" strategy -- so much so that UNLV may already be the most attractive destination for recruits in the Mountain West now, and perhaps the Rebels even get back on some Big 12 realignment shortlists. Pulling off a job like this would mean Sanchez's star will be rising like no other. Part of that is #BRAND. But the rest is about knowing your program's and your own respective strengths and weaknesses. We'll see this fall if Scott Shafer and Co. can manage those things together. Based on what the 2016 recruiting class is shaping up to be, they're certainly off to a decent start in that department.