On Thursday night I received a text message from a friend informing me that Doug Marrone was going to be named the new head coach at Syracuse. My first thought was how the hell did we let Skip Holtz and Turner Gill get away from us. My next thought was to call my dad, a lifelong fan and the reason I root for the Orange.
When I informed him of the news, my dad seemed surprisingly upbeat, hardly the reaction I was expecting. You see my dad is the type of fan that will stay at a sporting event to the very end, no matter the result. Countless times we have sat through blowouts, both victories and losses, freezing conditions, monsoons, and other weather that normal people would not be caught in at all sorts of sporting events. We never left until the end. I don’t even know if my dad missed an SU football home game between 1996 and 2006.
But the for the past two seasons, my father has not hesitated to stay at home on Saturday to do something else as significant as cutting the grass. Or he has done the previously unthinkable and left a game before the final whistle. He has given tickets to his friends, taking a huge loss like so many other fans. I never thought he would ever do that, but he started to feel like it was a complete waste of time to use a whole day to watch extremely horrendous football. This is something similar to what a lot of SU fans have gone through over the past few years.
But my dad said that he was intrigued by the choice of Marrone. He was happy that someone who genuinely seemed to love the university, his university, got the job. Dad seemed content while I remained unconvinced.
Then I watched Marrone’s introductory press conference. I heard him speak about how proud he was to have this job. How happy he was to come back to a place that he considers his home. I heard him talk about how he kept his recruiting ties even while he was coaching in the NFL, and heard people talk about how every move he has made in his coaching career was building towards this moment.
I was sold.
I understand there are concerns about Marrone not having any previous head coaching experience. That is a valid point. But I honestly think Marrone will be able to put together an experienced staff to help him. I think he understands what it takes to be a head coach even though he has never been one.
It is also valid to be worried about him not being active in the college game over the past seven years and how that will negatively impact recruiting. But who is better suited to sell potential recruits on the idea of playing in Syracuse than a former Syracuse player? I think him growing up in the Northeast and playing at Syracuse is the difference between Marrone and Greg Robinson. Robinson had no ties to this area. He didn’t know the high school coaches in the region and he was not able to create the ties with those coaches that are required to succeed in recruiting. I believe Marrone knows enough about the region, and has the passion to persuade recruits to come here.
Is it going to be a tough road? Absolutely. Will he need as much luck as he does skill in order to turn the program around? Of course. But I believe he can do it.
At the begining of this process I didn’t know who he was. Even after learning who he was I wasn’t convinced he would be a good coach, let alone land the gig. But now I believe he can do it. I think he will get the job done. And maybe this year my dad won’t have to skip any games.