Item: Similar to his predecessors Les Dye (Frank Maloney), Jake Crouthamel (Dick MacPherson, Paul Pasqualoni), and Daryl Gross (Greg Robinson, Doug Marrone, Scott Shafer) since Ben Schwartzwalder ended a twenty five year reign in 1973, it will be Mark Coyle who ends up making the recommendation to the chancellor and board of trustees for Shafer’s replacement as the school’s 30th head football coach, and what timing it will be. The fifth person to hold the title since Dec. 2004 will occupy the job at never a more critical period in Syracuse’s century and a quarter long football history as it seeks to climb from the bottom of the ranks among Power 5 Conference programs, and slowly but surely build back to becoming nationally relevant again.
Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for Sports Illustrated tweeting out the news Monday morning that Shafer and his staff were not going to be retained after the Boston College season finale in the Dome Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET / ACCRSNs/ESPN3), that announcement would have simply been on its way days from now following the B.C. game, instead of the university being forced to officially acknowledge the report with a one paragraph statement from Coyle issued Monday shortly after the original SI tweet:
“I want to thank Scott, his wife Missy, and their family for their seven years of dedication and service to SU Athletics and Syracuse University. Scott has worked tirelessly to educate our students on and off the field and to build our program. However, I feel a change in leadership is needed at this time. A national search will begin immediately.”
Save for having his special assistant, all-time Orange great Floyd Little, get out front to clarify that the department was going to review Shafer’s job status following the season during a Nov. 9 interview with the Syracuse Media Group, this has been the only entrée to Coyle’s thinking on the matter as the brief euphoria of a 3-0 season start spiraled downward to the angst of the current eight game losing streak, and they’re also Coyle’s first public comments since the week of the Rhode Island opener when he reminded one and all to let the season play out saying the upcoming campaign was, “not a sprint, we’re going to play 12 games.”
So, which path does Coyle now pursue? A current head coach or a coordinator? Experienced or an up-and-comer? Offensive-minded or defensive expertise? FBS or FCS? East Coast or West Coast?
Judging from the online speculation by assorted media and Orange Nation, all of those aforementioned candidate characteristics seem to come up in the myriad of names being bandied about, but it’s safe to think Coyle will keep to a well thought out plan as he’s been through a critical football hire as recently as some 24 months ago when he brought Bryan Harsin back to Boise State from Arkansas State to replace the program-molding Chris Petersen, and he’s been allowed the luxury of uniquely viewing SU athletics in general, and football at the Dome and on the road in particular, from both the inside as the CEO and from the outside as a recent transplant, only on the job approaching five months.
Two other elements jump out about who the next head coach will be; first we’ll know more about the level of financial commitment the university is willing to make to the AD and the program by gauging the annual multi-million dollar salary budget for the coach and his entire coaching/support staff to compete payroll-wise among its ACC brethren, and besides a known, respected, and successful coaching acumen, he’ll likely be an outstanding “family man” of impeccable character as all of Coyle’s initial hiring media notices have stressed to feature the individual’s entire family up top in the first or second sentence (as he did in the Shafer dismissal statement as well) of the release.