You knew it was coming, right?
As soon as Carpetbaggin' Mark Coyle shuffled off to Minnesota, taking full credit for what occurred on his sleepy watch in 2015-2016, you just knew some Syracuse Orange fan was going to request that instead of rolling the dice with a newbie we just re-elevate DOCTOR Daryl Gross to the position he held for ten years. I'm surprised it took this long, really.
Mark Coyle, the Syracuse University athletic director who left for Minnesota, was here for nearly a year, remained a stranger and did nothing memorable. He was a wallflower.
In that same year, we saw the long-term rewards of Daryl Gross' initiatives. There is no reason that Daryl's departure must be permanent. Daryl, Coyle's predecessor, is a shining star and quite a contrast to the man who followed him into the AD's chair.
An article by you making the case for Daryl Gross would spark a good conversation. Daryl was underappreciated. The rewards of good leadership develop over time. Daryl's good leadership came to light under Mark Coyle's watch.
— Randy Williams Fayetteville, N.Y.
Complaints about Mark Coyle are well-warranted. In retrospect, we now know that Coyle had one foot out the door within months of arriving at "special place" Syracuse so that he could take the same gig at "special place" Minnesota.
Commendations for Daryl Gross are also well-warranted. He changed Syracuse Athletics from a top-heavy basketball/lacrosse-based department into one of the most well-rounded athletics programs in the nation. Credit where credit is due he also hired Doug Marrone, oversaw one of the basketball program's greatest on-court stretches, and concocted the New York's College Team campaign which was so effective that Buffalo, St. John's, UConn and Seton Hall all tried to mimic it in some way. Oh and he gets credit for making sure we're in the ACC and UConn isn't.
So on one hand it's understandable why, given the circumstances, Gross might look like a palatable option to some Syracuse fans. After eleven years, the California guy is officially "one of us." He hasn't taken another job since "stepping down." And the on-field success goes right to him.
But, uh, no. No. This is a terrible idea. Let me remind you why...
1. You Didn't Like Him
Do you not remember how much you disliked Gross? His distant demeanor. The way he and his staff condescended to local fans. His retirement of Number 44. His love of #BRAND. That he moved so many home games from the Carrier Dome to MetLife Stadium for dubious returns on investment. And the way he would insert himself into every photo op possible.
Maybe I'm speaking from my own experience here but I don't ever remember a time when the tide turned and a majority of Syracuse fans were all Rah Rah Gross. For one reason or another, the general consensus always seemed to be that most Orange fans did not really like him all that much.
2. He's Not A Details Person And We Need A Details Person
As Kevin Wall wrote, the next AD needs to be someone who can manage the ongoing success of SU's Olympic programs while also juggling football attendance & success while also fundraising and also ensuring that the basketball programs have what they need to maintain their levels of success while also working on the Carrier Dome renovations. It's a lot to juggle.
Gross did a good job building a lot of things up from nothing. He helped turn multiple athletics programs into winners, he raised money to get Syracuse caught up to where it needed to be facilities-wise. He had lots of big ideas and marketing gimmicks and big picture dreams.
But Gross was not very good on details. His athletics program routinely botched celebrations, underwhelmed local fans with promotions to get them into the Dome, and generally ignored small fires rather than put them out. Not to mention the NCAA sanctions that happened on his watch (which we'll get to), a series of small problems that snowballed and caught fire, all of which could have easily been avoided had someone cracked a whip.
Now is not the time for Yankee Stadium billboards and MetLife games. We don't need an architect anymore. Now is the time for someone to come in, plug up all of the cracks in the wall, make sure the money is there to keep the renovations coming, and figure out how to ensure that all SU Athletics programs, especially Football, are in even better situations five years from now.
3. He Got Results Except For The One Program We Needed Him To
I say this all the time so I apologize if I sound like a broken record. But...
Put on a Syracuse t-shirt or hat and walk into a Buffalo Wild Wings outside of Central New York. Preferably one in a big city where there are lots of fans from different regions and backgrounds. Look for a group of fans of other schools. Maybe there's an Ohio State fan. Maybe there's an Oregon fan. How about that Florida fan. Go over to all of them, tap them on the shoulder, and let them know, "Hey, Syracuse won the Field Hockey National Championship. What now?"
See how far that gets you.
My point isn't to say that we shouldn't be proud of winning the field hockey title. We should. But generally-speaking, no one gives a shit. Nationally, all anyone cares about, the only things that move the meter, are football and basketball.
Basketball's doing great. It was doing great when Gross got here, it dipped for a bit but now it's as good as it's ever been.
Football, however, is only barely in a better position than it was when he got here. And that's kinda his fault.
Yes, he eventually hired Doug Marrone, who took Syracuse to two bowl games and returned us to mediocrity, which is higher praise than it sounds. But he also hired Greg Robinson, the worst coach in the history of Syracuse football. A coach so bad that the program continues to recover in some ways. And, while hiring Scott Shafer was universally-praised at the time it didn't turn out all that great and the program lost all of it's momentum earned by Marrone.
In the meantime, Carrier Dome football attendance has cratered to record-low numbers and Gross' desire for SU to schedule #BRAND-centric games against elite opponents backfired as we lost almost all of those games, affirming what the nation already thinks of SU football.
Gross showed us that he's a great steward for women's programs and Olympic sports programs but he did very little in those ten years to convince anyone he understands how to build an FBS football program.
4. The NCAA Sanctions Were On His Watch, Remember?
How soon we forget.
Despite what he'd tell you, Gross isn't the athletic director anymore because the worst NCAA sanctions in school history happened due to violations that ran the entire gamut of his tenure.
Now I know this is where we have a bit of a divide. Is it Gross' responsibility to check in with every employee and make sure they're staying above board at all time? Is Gross responsible for the actions of every single person at all times? Some would say yes, some would say no, some would say it doesn't matter.
The simple truth is that when you're in charge, you are responsible. End of story. That's not fair but that's how it always works.
We know that Gross was aware of issues way early in the process. And we know that violations occurred afterward.
As I said at the time, I wish an adult would have stood up and said, "This happened on my watch. I'm sorry. I'm making it better." No one ever did. You could make a strong case it should have been Boeheim but Gross was ultimately in charge of the program. He lost his job eventually but he certainly didn't fall on his sword.
But you know who did make the change and take the responsibility? Kent Syverud. And if you think Chancellor Kent is going to rehire Gross a year after forcing him out over NCAA violations, you're a crazy person.