Orange Watch: Time is of the essence in search for new Syracuse football coach

Mark Coyle left SU after less than a year at the helm
Orange Nation nervously awaits the swift conclusion of Mark Coyle’s  football coaching search, as the current open recruiting period winds down in 13 days

Item: While sources on both coasts have indicated that Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost has been the first choice to become the 30th head football coach at Syracuse University, there’s been no deal and talks reportedly have stalled. Now with the clock ticking closer to the recruiting “quiet/dead period” from Dec. 13-Jan. 16, athletics director Mark Coyle and his trusted inner circle are scurrying to finish interviews with other candidates and talk contract with their representatives so the current team and incoming recruits know exactly who they’ll be playing for at the ‘Cuse.

With 13 current FBS coaching openings, seven of those in Power 5 conferences, and perhaps a few more college vacancies with the domino effect of NFL teams luring a big name to the pros, it’s been eight days and counting since Coyle made his decision on changing the future leadership of Orange football, and the game of musical chairs and salary offers is in full swing.

Rumors are circulating by the hour as to who’s next in Coyle’s pecking order if the Frost hire falls through, and although he says the school hasn’t reached out to him and he seemingly isn’t on the AD’s short list, onetime Syracuse assistant (1995-97) Ed Orgeron has openly expressed his desire for the job to several people with SU connections, though he’s now also being courted by new USC fulltime coach Clay Helton, the two having worked together with the Trojans from 2010-13.

» Related: Scott Shafer era officially ends at Syracuse

However the coaching search plays out, and there will be a lot of nervous members of Orange Nation if there’s no finality by the end of the week, we’ll soon know the university’s financial commitment (or not) to Coyle to get his man to start the football fix, we’ll find out just how good that new coach is putting together his staff and wooing verbally committed recruits to stay the course, and just how good a salesman he is in bringing ACC-caliber talent into the program.

We didn’t see this mentioned anywhere, but it struck us as being unusual that for his final game as head coach of the Orange last Sat. against B.C., Scott Shafer wore a similar camouflage Syracuse sideline hat as he did for the Clemson game Nov. 14, only this time with the Fort Drum 10th Mountain Division patch covering the orange block “S” that was seen during the Clemson game, when the military patch was worn on Shafer’s jacket (and by the players on their game jerseys).

A Clemson game picture of Shafer is here, a Boston College game picture is here.

It’s a moot point now, but we were wondering if there was a subtle message by Shafer in honoring his beloved Fort Drum over his beloved university with the prominent patch placement?

With the SU men’s soccer team a home victory away against Boston College on Saturday afternoon (2:00 p.m. ET) from advancing to the College Cup (Final Four) in Kansas City Dec. 11-13, it’s possibly another wonderful chapter to be added to what’s been a record shattering fall sports scene with the back-to-back national titles won by the field hockey team, becoming the school’s first women’s team champion, followed by the men’s cross country team, 64 years between national titles.

The soccer team, under sixth year coach Ian McIntyre, has already advanced into unchartered postseason waters by reaching the NCAA quarterfinals, so look for Syracuse to be ranked pretty high when the Capital One Cup/NACDA fall rankings come out next month.

Congratulations to Syracuse punter Riley Dixon on being named the school’s first, first team all- ACC selection in three years of membership, the result of voting by the media members covering the conference, and that includes The Juice. Yes, we’ll confess that we voted for Dixon to the all conference first team, citing his great hang time and more than respectable 43.7 yards per punt average (26th best nationally for his number of kicks).

In addition, Dixon showed his athleticism by perfectly executing three fake punts during the season to keep SU drives intact, including the now infamous hurdle of would-be LSU tackler Kevin Toliver II in the eventual 10 point loss to the Tigers in the Dome in Sept. Dixon is one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy award which will be announced Dec. 10.

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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.