What Syracuse’s new AD needs to know about Syracuse lacrosse

Five months on the job, Mark Coyle embarks on finding the one hire that will likely define his SU career
What does Coyle need to know about SU Lax?

Syracuse’s new athletic director Mark Coyle has a lot on his plate as he settles into the 315. He’s sure to evaluate each of the programs, coaches, facilities and his department’s staff.

Chances are good he doesn’t know much about lacrosse. None of his previous stops in athletics administration—Boise State to Kentucky, Minnesota and Miami—had a lacrosse program. Coach John Desko even joked at Coyle’s introductory press conference that he considered quizzing his new boss about how many players are on a lacrosse field.

In case you’re wondering, Mark, it’s 10. There are a few other things you need to know about Orange men’s lacrosse.

The team wins. 11 national titles, 17 trips to the NCAA championship game, 22 consecutive Final Four appearances from 1983-2004, five undefeated teams. The football team is your revenue maker; the basketball team excites; the lacrosse team wins. But …

It’s not winning as much. The team hasn’t won a national title since 2009—a drought that is causing much consternation among the faithful. It’s also missed the Final Four in five of the past six years. Because …

The team and its fans are adapting to the new lacrosse landscape. The days of 22 straight Final Fours and championships coming in regular fashion are over. The sport has grown beyond its historical Northeast and Mid-Atlantic base at both the high school and collegiate level, making recruiting that much harder. Syracuse is still the premier program in the country, but it has much more competition now. Which is why you should…

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse’s latest disappointment is the harshest yet

Ignore the calls for a new head coach. There are rumblings in some corners of Orange fandom that it’s time to replace Desko. True, there have been some shocking first-round tournament losses in recent years: Army in 2010 and Bryant in 2014. But the Orange have gone 77-24 (.762) since winning the national title in 2009. He’s still the best person for the job. He does own five championships and three other appearances in the title game. That’s not too shabby. Plus …

History and being part of the family matter here. One of the draws of the program is the longevity of the coaching staff. Each of the team’s coaches are alums of the university, and Desko is the one person directly associated with the Orange for all 22 years of its Final Four streak. He served as an assistant coach during the first 16 years (and three years prior) and continued the streak for another six as head coach. He also played for the team from 1976-79.

22 is important for another reason. Football has 44; lacrosse has 22. Only some of the most talented players in the history of the sport have worn the jersey. Gary Gait. Charlie Lockwood. Casey, Ryan and Mike Powell. Plus countless others. There is some legitimate debate about how and when the jersey should be awarded and no easy solution.

The schedule is always brutal. Part of the appeal of Syracuse is that it doesn’t shy away from top opponents and rivals. Not only is the ACC a brutal trek through Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia and North Carolina, but then the Orange regularly play the likes of Johns Hopkins and Cornell. Feel free to make the football team’s nonconference schedule as easy as possible but let’s keep lacrosse’s the way it is. To be the best you have the beat the best.

So, good luck with the new job. We expect nothing but the best, especially when it’s the men’s lacrosse team.

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About Dan Brannigan 71 Articles
Dan is currently the editor of Common Ground magazine for Community Associations Institute (CAI) where he has won an Association Media & Publishing award for newswriting. Dan has also won a New England Press Association award while working for the The Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Dan is a 2005 Syracuse University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @djbranni.