Item: What a past week! Incoming athletic director Mark Coyle and his family were introduced with great fanfare as they initiate the process of transplanting from Boise to Syracuse. There was the family’s personal tour of the school’s 36 year old signature athletics facility from new university VP, chief campus facilities officer Pete Sala, a Carrier Dome building that needs to be upgraded with contemporary fan-friendly features (individual seats), while increasing its revenue-producing abilities within the existing square-footage (that is unless a funding source can be found for a new facility). The week ended with the brilliant move of Chancellor Kent Syverud by officially taking one highlighted item off of the new AD’s hefty checklist, authorizing the head coaching progression plan from Jim Boeheim to Mike Hopkins.
Now, in less than a week, the process begins. As he did at Boise State after arriving in 2011, Mark Coyle is going to be officially starting his work as AD next Monday posing many questions to quite a few people and doing a lot of listening over the summer, formulating his plans as he looks over the budgets and his department staff flow chart in getting his feet on the ground running, because he knows the 61 day time period will zip by before Rhode Island will be in the Dome teeing it up for Scott Shafer’s third season the Friday evening of Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4 – 7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN3).
The initial comments that stood out to these ears during the introductory press conference event was the quick response Coyle made to reinforce his candidacy to exactly the right HR executive (Chicago-based Glenn Sugiyama, EVP and head of DHR International’s Sports Practice Group) when learning of the vacancy, and his outsider viewpoint of what the job meant to him not only professionally within the Div. I fraternity of senior athletic management executives, but also as a message to the local fan base, the majority of whom often lose sight of the reverse perspective of ‘Cuse athletics on an out-of-market level.
“Syracuse is a special place, and I think sometimes when you’re in Syracuse, and you’re in it day- in and day-out, you sometimes lose sight of what this program represents nationally and internationally,” Coyle said is his day one remarks. “When this opportunity became open, I can’t tell you how quick I picked up the phone and called Glenn (at DHR International), because I knew this was a special place. It’s a special place because of its history, its tradition. It’s a special place that’s going to go through transition.”
In other words, trying to reestablish the cycle of winning football and guiding the basketball through its NCAA probation, pending final appeals, while figuring out the Dome’s future and revenue productivity, and maintaining the strong base that has been built for all of the men’s and women’s programs.
The early guess here is that unless the football team becomes completely unglued, Coyle will find a way to distribute the financial resources necessary for Shafer to build his recruiting base of upgraded talent in the ultra-competitive ACC, and he’ll aptly steer basketball through the NCAA hit, while likely, in our opinion, greeting the Mike Hopkins era much sooner than the currently projected spring of 2018 timetable for Jim Boeheim’s retirement.
If Dome renovation is the path taken with a Coyle-led full blown fundraising effort, look for contemporary fan amenities to finally be built to help bring the building closer to that of some ACC rivals, enhancing the overall fan experience and truly bringing back the home team advantage to help football get back on track.