Orange Watch: Despite distractions surrounding future, Syracuse coach Scott Shafer plows ahead

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With talk swirling his SU future consists of just three more games, all Scott Shafer has to do this week is prepare for the CFP’s top ranked team

Item: With a current six game losing streak that is bringing back unpleasant memories of the disastrous Greg Robinson era (2005-08), and with only an upset of seismic proportions against No. 1 Clemson (9-0, 6-0) Saturday afternoon in the Dome (3:30 p.m. ET / ABC-ESPN2) preventing that number from reaching seven straight defeats, the Syracuse coach remains steadfast only worrying about the elements he can control.

Scott Shafer has spoken with his boss this week, but with so much preparation time needed for his team’s meeting with the impressive Tigers, who’ve already wrapped up a spot in the ACC championship game, there’s been no diving into details with Mark Coyle about evaluating his future running the Orange program. The closest we know publicly about whether or not Shafer returns for a fourth season came from the comments made by Coyle’s special assistant, all-time great Floyd Little, when he told the Syracuse Media Group earlier this week that a thorough review of Shafer will come after the season concludes Nov. 28 at home against Boston College.

He (Coyle) appreciates the hard work our coaches and players are putting in,” Shafer said Tuesday afternoon during his weekly local call with the media when asked about his relationship with Coyle, now four plus months on the job, and the speculation that has ratcheted up about his tenure as the school’s 29th head football coach coming to an end after three seasons, a 2013 Texas Bowl victory, but a current overall 13-21 mark.

“We have a relationship. I had a nice talk with him yesterday (Monday). There’s not enough time to sit down and go through any little detail right now because we’re in the middle of a fight (preparing for Clemson), and he understands that. He sees what we’re trying to do and he appreciates the fight of the kids and the way they continue to compete, (including) games when we knew the outcome was imminent.”

» Related: Syracuse 17, Louisville 41

As the heat on Shafer has turned up throughout Orange Nation, even swaying many one-time loyalists, and a current five game Dome attendance average of 31,532, or exactly 972 fewer fans than Boise State averaged all of last season under Coyle before he came east to SU this summer, it all may be a moot point, especially with the whispers around Manley Field House of late.

Yet Shafer diverts away from all of that in maintaining the program CEO role of worrying about today, in this case game number 10 of 12 Saturday, albeit against the top ranked team in this week’s College Football Playoff rankings, while keeping another eye out for what tomorrow, or in this case three weeks down the road, might bring when Little’s aforementioned evaluation will rise to the top of Coyle’s priority list.

“We always tell the kids we’re always going to speak the truth, we’re not going to hide behind the elephants in the room, we’re never going to be a group that doesn’t chase things head on,” Shafer responded Tuesday when asked about maintaining consistency in his coaching with all of the rumors of his future flying about.

“We’re extremely transparent in the way we talk to these young men (about what’s going on with all of the talk of the program’s future leadership). One of our main focuses in my coaching career has been ‘How do we do at controlling the controllables?’ I’m sure it sounds like a broken record to my players, but I talk about it every day. Every day. I’ll ask them, ‘What are today’s controllables?Anything (else) on the outside looking in is just that, uncontrollable.” 

While the head coaching decision has likely been made behind the scenes, certainly out of Shafer’s control, with the public posture of a post season announcement, it will be interesting to see how the team performs for its head coach against the Clemson challenge, a tough road game at N. C. State, and the Thanksgiving weekend rivalry finale versus B.C. in a likely less-than-exuberant Dome atmosphere.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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