I have to admit, I didn’t catch much of the Syracuse-USC game last Saturday. It’s not because I didn’t want to watch. I just couldn’t watch two games at once. Instead I was experiencing a different kind of game across the country.
It was the same sport, but it felt completely different. I was at a University of Michigan football game. You may wonder what that has to do with Syracuse and the Orange football team.
Not much at the outset. But more than you’d think. Michigan’s football overall program sets an example that Syracuse must emulate.
Think about it. This was my game-day experience at Michigan: 110,000 people, a packed atmosphere, and constant tailgating and celebrations around the whole college town.
Here is a realistic Syracuse game experience: a barely half-filled Carrier Dome of maybe 30,000 people, with a sub-.500 team on the field. Room to improve? I think so.
Now, Syracuse will never be able to compete with Michigan and college football’s perennial powers. But it needs to strive for big-time success on a level realistic with Syracuse football. SU can start with filling the Dome, and can get students out tailgating and rooting for Syracuse football.
Pulling more fans out of the woodwork and creating higher levels of excitement seems like a simple concept. But for a team with little success this decade, it’s not easy to be a popular draw. Still, this is not as insurmountable a task as it may appear. And it starts with winning.
SU has rabid basketball fans. There’s the proof that the SU community will rally around a team. And it has a solid foundation for football fans within the community. If only winning came so easy.
Let’s face it—SU will never be an Alabama, LSU, Michigan, or even West Virginia when it comes to football. But it wasn’t so long ago that SU put a darn good team on the field and packed the Carrier Dome. Why can’t SU football rise as fast as it recently fell?
Doug Marrone has been trying to get Syracuse back to that winning place. He’s gained some ground, but there’s a ways to go. There were more USC fans at Saturday’s game in what was dubbed a “home game.” That’s not acceptable.
The changing of the culture is a long process. That’s understood. And Syracuse has put up valiant efforts this season in losses against Northwestern and USC. Moving to the ACC should help with exposure and competition.
But while the ACC is a step up from the Big East, it’s no SEC or Big Ten. Regardless of conference, or where games are played, winning will heal all. It’s age-old wisdom.
When the SU football team succeeds, as we saw two years ago in its run to the Pinstripe Bowl win, the community becomes electric. We’ve seen this with basketball. But it’s not enough. Football runs college sports. It just doesn’t run Syracuse.
Will it ever? Probably not. But can it get out of the trenches and at least fill the Dome? Time will tell. A victory this weekend over Stony Brook will at least knock one in the win column.
One step closer to building that 110,000-seat stadium.