Doug Marrone got snubbed. He deserves better. He deserves recognition for turning a moribund Syracuse football program around in two years and leading the Orange to its best record — and first winning campaign — since 2001.
Instead, honors for Big East Coach of the Year were shared between Connecticut’s Randy Edsall and Louisville’s Charlie Strong. Edsall led the Huskies to an 8-4 (5-2) record, a share of the Big East championship and the conference’s spot in the Bowl Championship Series. In his first year, Strong took a team that finished last in the Big East two seasons in a row — and was picked last in the 2010 preseason media poll — and guided the Cardinals to a 6-6 (3-4) record.
Sure, Edsall and Strong both had honor-worthy seasons. Edsall is taking UConn to its first BCS game, where it will face Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. Strong’s Cardinals improved from 4-8 in 2009 and faced Southern Miss in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl earlier this week in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Cardinals took home the win, 31-28.
What about Marrone? The Orange finished one game behind UConn and one game ahead of Louisville in 2010. Wasn’t his turnaround just as impressive as Strong’s? Since taking the helm just two seasons ago, Marrone has piloted Orange football to a 4-8 record in 2009 and a 7-5 (4-3) record this season — that’s one more win in two years (11) than Greg Robinson had in four (10). The Orange is going to its first bowl game since 2004. The team faces Kansas State on Dec. 30 in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York.
Yes, three of Syracuse’s wins were against Akron, Maine and Colgate. And three of its victories (South Florida, West Virginia and Rutgers) were by a combined 12 points. Its record at the Carrier Dome (2-4) was pretty pathetic.
On the flip side, the Orange had one of the best defenses in the country, only allowing 18.1 points per game (13th overall). The team won five games on the road, including one at then no. 20-ranked West Virginia. It accomplished all of this with a first-time starting quarterback, sophomore Ryan Nassib, and a depleted roster due to injuries, transfers and dropouts. And its loss to Louisville was only by eight points, and its loss to Boston College to end the regular season was by nine points.
Perhaps one more win would’ve done it for Marrone and for the Syracuse football program. Since the Big East’s first football season in 1991, no Syracuse coach has taken the conference’s top coach’s honor. Granted, the last decade has been lost to a failing program. But there were some good seasons in the 1990s. Paul Pasqualoni led the Orange to a 10-2 record in 1991 and 1992 but was beat out by Miami’s Dennis Erickson each season.
But I’ve got to believe that going from 1-10 in 2005, 4-8 in 2006, 2-10 in 2007, 3-9 in 2008 and 4-8 in 2009 to 7-5 in 2010 should count for something. Maybe Marrone just needs to make a few more friends among his fellow Big East coaches, each of whom vote for the conference’s annual postseason awards.
Thankfully, there’s still a chance to honor the coach. He’s up for Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year. The award celebrates responsible coaching and a commitment to excellence both on and off the field. Sounds like Marrone to me.
The winner will be determined by a compilation of votes by fans (20 percent), votes cast by a committee of College Football Hall of Fame coaches and players (55 percent), and the national college football media (25 percent). Go to CoachOfTheYear.com to cast your ballot by Dec. 28.
Marrone may not win this award either — Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Oregon’s Chip Kelly, among others, are up for the honor too — but we should give him our support and recognize the now-bright future of the Syracuse football program after so many years of trials and tribulations.
Thanks coach, for giving us a team we can be proud of once again.
Dan Brannigan is the Lacrosse Editor for The Juice Online.