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With Chris Fox gone, what’s next for Syracuse cross country?

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Staring out at the future for one of SU’s most successful teams this decade.

Brian Vasey

Last week’s news that Syracuse Orange Cross Country and Track Head Coach Chris Fox was stepping down to pursue a professional coaching opportunity caught a lot of people by surprise. Fox had taken the Orange distance program from the bottom of the Big East to a national power in the ACC during his Syracuse tenure. He’s been called “Syracuse’s best coach” by Jim Boeheim and his departure will raise some questions about the future of the program.

Fox came to Syracuse in 2005 and soon began building a powerhouse program. The Orange have won 8 of the last 9 conference XC championships, earned the school’s 2nd-ever National Championship in 2015 and produced numerous All-Americans. He took full advantage of the opportunity given to him and produced a program that brought a lot of pride to alumni as shown below.

Fox will now look to apply his same program building as he leads Reebok’s new professional team. He’ll continue to work with Syracuse legend Justyn Knight who will begin his career as a member of Reebok’s Boston Track Club. Knight and Orange alum Martin Hehir will be back under Fox’s tutleage as they all look to emulate Syracuse’s success at the progrssional level.

Coming on the heels of the graduation of Knight, Philo Germano and Colin Bennie, Fox’s departure would seem to open the door for other ACC programs to finally end the Orange XC dominance. North Carolina media members want you to forget that no ACC team has defeated the Orange men’s XC team in any meet since they joined the conference. To those looking to close the book on Syracuse’s reign, let me just say “not so fast my friends...”

Brien Bell has been with Fox since the beginning at Syracuse, and he’s been named the Interim Coach. It didn’t take long for many alums to take to social media and say vocal that it’s time to #TakeCareofBell and keep him in charge of the Orange program. He’s also the person Fox believes is right to assume the lead role.

“I cannot imagine them going any other direction than to go with Brien,” Fox says. “You know him, he’s more than qualified. We treat each other as equals in this game and he’s ready to go…I would be stunned if Brien’s not the head coach. It’s just logical. He’s ready to do it, he’s got a great group, and I don’t see this program missing a beat.”

I would agree with the sentiment, as Bell has been instrumental in the foundation which has been established. He’s been a huge part of the success we’ve seen and the passion he displays for the program is evident when you are around him. Think of Bell as the Mike Hopkins to Fox’s Jim Boeheim, and you can see why those close to the program are pushing for him to be the successor.

With runners like Paige Stoner, Aidan Tooker and Noah Affolder returning, Syracuse still has legitimate National Championship contenders, so this isn’t the time to break from what’s working. I still think the Syracuse men are the team to beat in the ACC next fall and they have the potential to surprise the experts who assume a steep drop in 2018.

With just over a month until pre-season camp starts, Syracuse needs to make a decision quickly. It would make a lot of sense for John Wildhack to remove the Interim title and put Bell in charge of the Men’s and Women’s XC/Track programs. I’d elevate Sprint/Hurdles coach Dave Hegland to an Associate Head Coach title as he’s worked wonders with limited scholarships and cramped facilities. Adam Smith will be joining Fox with Reebok so Syracuse could search for at least one female assistant coach for the distance group and one to join Frank Rizzo in assisting Hegland. The Orange have been at the bottom of the P5 in terms of coach diversity and adding two women to the staff would be a step in the right direction.

No matter what happens, Syracuse is in this position because of the foundation established by Fox. He took the program to a new level and we wish him, Justyn and Martin the best in their new endeavors with Reebok.