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What Syracuse Needs From the Next Athletic Director

While many are talking about who should be the next Syracuse Orange Athletic Director, let's look at areas the new Athletic Director will need to focus.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we know that Dan French's time as Syracuse Orange Athletic Director is going to be short-lived, we can continue to speculate as to the next steps in the process.

Kevin put together a list of potential candidates after Mark Coyle's departure, which included some new names to go along with the list John and I put together last spring. Orange fans have been quick to make their own suggestions, and a number of people are adamant that the next AD must have Orange blood in their veins. I'm not here to make an argument for a particular person, but rather I'd like to take this time to look at the characteristics that Syracuse needs from this hire.

I don't think it's as simple as saying the next AD just needs to be able to raise money, as Bud Poliquin suggests. Certainly that's one part of the job description, and an important one, but it's far from the only characteristic needed from the hire. Syracuse Athletics is entering an important phase and it's essential that the person hired can provide the guidance and direction needed in the following areas.

Fixing Football

At the top of most people's wish lists is someone to "fix football," but really the weight of that burden now falls on Dino Babers. What Syracuse needs from the AD is to provide the support needed to develop a winning program. Let Babers handle the on-field product, but focus the administration on doing what is necessary to support his efforts. The AD needs to quickly address the scheduling deficiencies facing the Orange (not to mention the angst this causes John). You need someone who understands the balance between playing a challenging schedule and trying to let a program gain momentum and traction through consecutive bowl appearances.

The AD must also work to bring fans back to the Dome. It's clear that low ticket prices and games against SEC teams aren't the answer to filling the Dome. So even if the AD isn't directly involved with the Dome renovations, they must make sure that creating a positive experience for casual fans is considered. The new AD must also work with marketing and public relations to find ways to expand Syracuse's reach in the Central and Western New York markets. It doesn't have to be all about "New York's College Team," but expanding the Syracuse reach within the state will be important.

Basketball

It's easy to say that the new AD should show up, shake Jim Boeheim's hand and say "Coach, just give me a shout if you need anything." However, the Boeheim-Hopkins transition is going to bring uncertainty to the Syracuse fanbase, and last season's 4-5 record under Hopkins didn't help those who don't want Boeheim's time to end. The SU AD can provide Hop with the public and private support needed to help him as he puts his own stamp on the Orange basketball program. While I don't think any of us expect that Hop will enjoy the sort of clout that Boeheim has when it comes to scheduling, I think the next AD has to be willing to partner with him to ensure that he has plenty of input in this area of the program.

Personally, the next AD is in a no-lose situation here. If Hop succeeds, there is one less thing for them to have to worry about. In the unfortunate circumstance where he needs to be replaced, the AD will be able to move on without the hire "on their record."

Olympic Sport Success

The 2015-16 season has been the most successful overall year in Syracuse Athletics history. To many, this seems to be an area that won't require much attention from the new AD, but that would be short-sighted. The success is going to mean that a lot of Syracuse's coaches will be highly sought-after. As we've seen, it isn't easy for Syracuse to compete with a lot of large public institutions when it comes to salaries. The next AD might be faced with tough decisions in terms of matching offers, or working to keep coaches happy to remain in Syracuse. You can't have someone who doesn't properly evaluate the job that has been done by these coaching staffs. Keeping the programs at a high level is going to be as challenging as building them up, and it meshes nicely with the next area of need.

Planning for the Future

In Bud's article that I linked earlier, he mentions how new facilities like the outdoor track and turf practice field means that, outside of the Dome, Syracuse is all-set in this area. This couldn't be further from the truth. While a number of upgrades have certainly helped, the reality is that many of the upgrades lack long-term viability in keeping the Orange competitive among P5 institutions.

The renovation of Manley Field House is the perfect example. When it was converted to a turf field, it met the need for a practice place for football and lacrosse that wasn't the Dome. Now that the Ensley Center is complete, Manley is left to provide the weight room for Olympic sports and an awkward track/turf combination, which is less than appealing for other teams. The facility is already in need of another renovation to make it suitable for the sports which didn't move over to Ensley.

With the increased revenue from the move to the ACC, the next Syracuse AD needs to think long-term before committing to enhancements. Had Syracuse moved all of football's operations over to Ensley, it would have freed up plenty of room to provide new academic space, new locker room and training room space, and addressed the relocation of the Olympic weight room due to the new women's lacrosse locker room. The Band-Aid approach needs to be changed to long-range thinking and maximizing spending to do the most for the overall department and not just one team (even if the Band-Aid approach has led to some very impressive things)

"Making Their Mark"

This is a comment that has popped up in a few places, as some worry that the inability to make a big coaching hire will cause Syracuse to miss out on quality candidates. We certainly hope that someone hired this summer won't need to worry about hiring a new FB or MBB head coach for the next decade at least, but that doesn't mean a new AD can't make a mark in other meaningful ways. I've already talked about football attendance and involvement in Dome renovations. I'd argue that another area is just as meaningful and is begging for someone to make it a priority.

That issue is the number of female coaches at Syracuse.

This is not to suggest that the new AD needs to fire coaches to raise this number. What the new AD needs to do is be involved as coaching positions open, especially those working with women's teams. It is imperative that SU looks to be proactive in identifying female coaches and making every effort to give them equal consideration in the hiring process. Syracuse can also work to remedy this need by creating internship/post-graduate opportunities for Orange athletes who wish to become coaches or athletic administrators

Is this an issue that matters to all Syracuse fans? No, of course not. But when you talk about "legacy," it's certainly an area where an AD can be remembered fondly for taking a negative and turning it into a positive. Syracuse can change from the bottom of the list into an athletic department known for providing opportunities for underrepresented populations to become involved in Division I Athletics.

I'm sure I've left things out that you think are crucial, so share your thoughts in the comments below.