Item: Off the disappointing and regressive 3-9 season that concluded last Saturday, it’s worth noting that since Daryl Gross took over running the Syracuse athletic department fulltime in Jan. 2005, the Orange and Indiana are the only Power 5 conference programs (64 total) NOT to have appeared in the Top 25 polls.
When is Syracuse football going to return to relevancy? And, no, we don’t mean relevant by being one of the 76 bowl teams in an era when making a bowl game is so watered down with a six win minimum and games being played and added in practically every warm weather locale in the country that it’s expected your team will be in a game somewhere, by relevant we mean appearing somewhat consistently in the weekly polls, truly signifying that a program is to be taken seriously among its peers in the ACC and new College Football Playoff era and subsequently by targeted recruits.
In fact, if the Orange doesn’t make the polls next season or the year after, it would tie for the longest drought in the post-World War II era (1972-1987) of 15 straight (long) seasons without showing up in the rankings. Although Doug Marrone’s 2010 team did receive votes in the AP poll in weeks nine through 12, it’s been since Paul Pasqualoni’s 11th of his 14 seasons in 2001 when the ‘Cuse finished 18th in both the AP and coaches polls after a 10-3 season and bowl win over Kansas State that the Syracuse name appeared among the top programs in the nation.
Shortly after the deflating 28-7 defeat in the finale against Boston College ended his second season mark at 10-15, Scott Shafer was quick to pronounce the importance of keeping his recruiting agenda on course, no bowl game or not, and that means securing the many verbal commitments, the future lifeblood of whether the program moves upward, that have accumulated since last spring.
“I’m really excited about this (incoming in Feb. 2015) group, we need to keep them all committed, keep them Orange,” Shafer said. “(We need) to get them in here with what I think is a very good freshman class this year and put two solid back-to-back classes together, and I’m excited to get back out there (the recruiting trail). Wish we were practicing for a bowl game, but we’re not.”
When spring practice does begin starting next March, the recruiting-friendly indoor practice facility, with an expected January opening, will have been up and running for a couple of months, heralded Miami-area quarterback commit Alin Edouard will hopefully be using the building to learn how to help inject points into an anemic an offense as there is in the FBS ranks, and the promising new class that Shafer and his staff have worked hard to corral send in their letters-of-intent on February 4.
Once preseason camp concludes and the season rolls around in September, the early schedule seemingly plays out nicely starting with FCS foe Rhode Island in the Dome, although there is the wildcard of week two, and whether or not the ACC inserts a conference game, likely on the road and perhaps on a weeknight evening (Florida State, Louisville, N.C. State, or Virginia) as opposed to wasting the one open week that early, followed by home games versus Central Michigan and SEC marquee program LSU, with the Tigers making a rare northern appearance.
But as the just concluded season showed with mounting injuries including those to the most important offensive cogs in the 2013 Texas Bowl win over Minnesota among others, and that loss of personnel that all teams suffer in any given season, it’s going to take a couple of more patient-testing recruiting cycles, coached by as talented a staff as possible, to build strong enough classes to consistently compete with the ACC’s best programs and aim for the conference title game, while inching back towards occasional appearances in the national rankings and the relevancy that accompanies that respect.