Orange Watch: For the holiday season, an orange-tinted wish list for Syracuse athletics

happy holidays

It’s the time of year when wishful thinking of all things Orange projects some exciting developments for 2016 and beyond

Item: Over this annual December blitz, the Orange Watch five item holiday wish list is presented below. Each item is related to random thoughts on events that have transpired, are currently evolving, or will occur in the future, related to covering and enjoying Orange Nation’s favorite pastime of attending or watching the ‘Cuse play the games. Happy Holidays, everyone.

1) For Chancellor Syverud, the board of trustees, athletics director Mark Coyle, and other senior administrators, to give the go ahead to allow VP and Chief Campus Facilities Officer Pete Sala to (finally) publicly present the plan for the Carrier Dome renovation project early next semester.

The preview of the drawings outlining the transformation of the 36 year old building and its immediate vicinity comprising the ever-evolving western side of campus into a 21st century, amenity-filled collegiate sports and broader entertainment/hospitality venue, has been presented privately this fall to various constituency groups in Syracuse and beyond. Now it’s time to reap the recruiting benefits of a timely announcement touting the much needed modernization of the university’s (and city’s) most identifiable building, and unquestioned symbol of the athletic department.

2) More good fortune and national championships under still relatively new AD Coyle, who has deftly handled the job to these eyes since his fulltime arrival in July.

From assembling his senior level staff, a mixture of current and new managers, to publicly preaching patience while he digested the Syracuse culture by asking a lot of questions, to privately maintaining a low key management demeanor exhibited by executing his relationship and trust-building leadership skills to hire the most critical position of a Power Five conference school, the head football coach, Coyle has earned a most enthusiastic thumbs up from the majority of Orange Nation.

» Related: Analyzing Syracuse through four factors of basketball success

In just six some months, Coyle has also basked in overseeing two national championship squads in women’s field hockey and men’s cross country, and a first-ever men’s soccer College Cup (Final Four) appearance (with a tip of the cap to predecessor Daryl Gross for building the foundation), when Syracuse previously only had a total of 28 team national championships dating way back to 1904. Here’s to more from where that came from during Coyle’s SU tenure as the university’s 10th athletics director.

3) A gradual ramp up in the basketball team’s performance under Mike Hopkins until his final game running the show two weeks from tonight, Jan. 5 in the Dome against Clemson.

With an opportunity to move his interim coaching mark to 3-2 with a victory tonight against Montana State (5-6) in the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN3), followed by a visit from a 1-9 Texas Southern squad that will not have played a game in 11 days before it comes to Syracuse Sunday afternoon (2:00 p.m. ET / ESPNU), Hopkins is eyeing the robust challenge of the ACC opener at Pitt next week as the latest test of exactly how far this team has improved under his tutelage.

Wishfully, it’s enough improvement for Jim Boeheim to subsequently lead this squad to a return to the NCAA Tournament; just three seasons removed from a Final Four appearance, and be placed in the bracket for regional games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and potentially the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

4) A robust recruiting class on the Feb. 3 national letter of intent signing day for new football coach Dino Babers and his staff, understanding it’s year one of putting the pieces together to run his most high-tempo offense and aggressive defense.

A new coaching staff inherits those previously verbally committed recruits who want to stay new coach or not, and those who don’t, along with mixing in recruits they’ve eyed and spent time getting to know at their prior stop, along with recruits that come into play late in the process.

From most media accounts of Babers two head coaching posts from 2012-15, two seasons each at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, it’s the second season in which the frenetic offense begins to take hold. We’re hoping that the Dome’s fast track and non weather factor, combined with an entire off season of Babers overseeing the program’s use of the Ensley Athletic Center’s indoor field and new training regiments, will speed up that time table and get the program back to one of the now ubiquitous 40 bowl games this time next year.

5) Again coming out of the gate with three straight home games, and four of its first five, that the SU lacrosse team not only opens up the season strong, but finishes stronger at the back end of a schedule that features upstate rivals Cornell, Hobart, and Colgate, sandwiched around the ACC Tournament which moves for 2016 from suburban Philadelphia to suburban Atlanta.

As the scholastic talent feeding Division I college lacrosse programs continues to spread outside the traditional eastern seaboard hotspots of Maryland, Long Island and upstate New York, evidenced by not only Denver claiming the NCAA title last May, but the emergence of programs such as Notre Dame and Ohio State and the burgeoning west coast development, along with the geographical marketing, promotion, and live coverage of post season tournaments in states such as Georgia, Colorado, Indiana and this season Ohio, the options have opened up far and wide for the top high school and PG players when selecting a college program.

Syracuse, an NCAA finalist just three short seasons back, begins its 18th season under John Desko gunning for its first national title since 2009, and was picked tied for third with Virginia last week in the preseason ACC poll, both behind Notre Dame and Duke. SU plays those No. 1-2 preseason teams over a six day period exactly in the middle of the season.

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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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