Orange Watch: Syracuse football will only become relevant again by winning. Period.

NC State
Syracuse will travel to NC State this season
NC State
Syracuse will likely not be in a bowl game this season

Item: Remember the enthusiastic summertime talk of the Orange eyeing a rare 3-0 start? Now, unless SU knocks off No. 22/24 Duke this week, it will be the first season ever in which there were zero home victories against FBS opposition.

Back in the 1978 final season of Archbold Stadium, in the final game played in the crumbling structure against No. 18 Navy, a 1-7 Orangemen squad was looking to avoid becoming the first team in the stadium’s 70 season history, and only the third ever dating back to the inaugural 1889 one game campaign, to go winless at home.

Syracuse would upset the Midshipmen 20-17 behind back-up quarterback Tim Wilson (1977-78, 1980) and a late defensive stand on that Indian summer November afternoon 36 years ago, avoiding the ignominy of being the only team never to win at least one game in a season at “Old Archbold.”

Three of the four forgettable Greg Robinson years (2005-08) ended with only one home win over a FBS school (twice against Buffalo), but in the modern era there has never been a winless home season against opponents from the same classification, and that’s on the line as this year’s team (3-6, 1-4), with the only home win in double overtime versus FCS member Villanova in Aug., meets Coastal Division-leading Duke (7-1, 3-1) in the Dome Saturday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET/ACCRSN).

The Blue Devils are the program that the ‘Cuse looks to emulate in the ACC, a private school not only succeeding at the highest level in basketball, lacrosse and its Olympic sports, but also in the money-maker in the nascent College Football Playoff era as a member of a Power Five conference, lately contending for the ACC championship on an annual basis.

Until that happens with the Orange, the university can have all the ticket giveaways, $100 season tickets, and other promotions it wants, but even athletic department senior management we’ve spoken with at the Dome this season acknowledge in an era when every game is available to be watched on some platform somehow by the most ardent of Orange alumni and fans local or displaced, only consistent winning will provide the opportunity to lure authentically large, near capacity crowds, most of them middle-of-the-road faithful jumping on the winning train, back inside the Dome for the live game experience.

» Related: Syracuse drops game sixth game of the season

Until football becomes basketball, it won’t enjoy the luxury of large crowds cheering themselves horse in a “Lock The Gate” intimidating fashion, not in a segmented world with multiple live broadcast options, sometimes inconvenient kickoff times usually announced 12 days prior to the game date, nearly four hour game lengths, and with the shrinking of parking options abutting the Dome, the realization for most fans not living near campus that it’s going to take some sort of effort to park and ride to the building, even for just up to seven dates a season.

Making the logical assumption that the Orange can’t sweep Duke and Pittsburgh and Boston College on the road to eke out a 6-6 finish and qualify for one of the 76 post season slots, there’s also the loss of the valuable extra practice sessions allowed in December by bowl participants, a potential harder close to finalizing all of the verbal commitments and rounding out the recruiting class, and no bowl appearance sizzle to promote heading into spring practice.

Next year’s first month of the schedule in September could potentially feature four straight home games, depending what the ACC does with the second week of the season. Right now, Syracuse starts with FCS school Rhode Island, then either a week off or an ACC game, followed by Central Michigan and the marquee, soon-to-be Power Five mandated game, against LSU in back-to-back weeks to close out the tricky month (there’s also a game at South Florida in October).

Much can happen until next season, and the new indoor practice facility expected to boost recruiting long term is on pace for completion next month, but if this year ends short of a bowl at 3-9, 4-8, or 5-7, think of the realistic time frame needed to upgrade the depth of talent and other program elements in the quest to flip those records around and become relevant as quickly as possible.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth 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.