It was around this time last year when it was announced that the Syracuse Orange had fired Scott Shafer before the final game against the Boston College Eagles. The decision by then Athletic Director Mark Coyle ended weeks of speculation and brought closure to the Shafer era. It also closed the door on what was happening within the fan base (and potentially the locker room) where the #FireShafer and #IStandWithShafer sides had been battling.
However you felt then about the decision, the fact that the Orange players and coaches were allowed to head into the last game knowing it was ending was the right move. This became more clear to me Monday when I watched Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong give his weekly press conference as everyone else at Texas worked to deny multiple reports that Strong would be fired.
Now, I believe it is time for Texas and Strong to part ways after this season, but when you can’t treat a man of character like Strong with the class that he deserves, it’s disappointing. Everyone, including Strong, knows that this run is over at Texas, so continuing the charade is a slap in the face to him and the Texas players.
We all know the reality of college athletics at this level. Shafer and Strong didn’t win enough games to justify keeping their positions. That being said, both deserved to have their firings treated with as much class as possible in a less than desirable situation.
Firing a coach before the final game allows everyone involved in the program to know the situation heading into the game. It can provide enough motivation to lift a struggling team to victory, which means little in the short-term, but allows those involved a chance to end on a high note. We saw this with Greg Robinson and the upset win over Notre Dame, and we saw it when the Orange beat BC last year.
At face value those wins matter very little to the program, but for the staff and players it’s something they will take with them. For the returning players in the program, it’s a way to enter a new era with a bit of momentum. Transition for student-athletes is never easy. Suddenly, they go through the recruiting process all over again. Allowing them the opportunity to take the field one last time knowing that this era truly is over is the least college administrators can do.
Syracuse fans might not like the way Coyle came and left in such a short time, but at the very least you can appreciate what he did when it came to the football coaching situation. He handled Shafer’s departure with a bit of class and consideration and he handled the hiring of Dino Babers with an eye towards the future. The folks in leadership roles at Texas could learn a little bit from that kind of decision-making.