Item: If the current basketball season does turn out to be the first losing season since 1970-71, and that’s likely with a minimum of 15 games to play, combined with the state of Syracuse football finishing below .500 the last three seasons, what’s Orange Nation to do? After a shrug of the shoulders and letting out a blast of exasperation over the worst combined seasons since 1981-82 when football went 4-6-1 and basketball 16-13 (NIT), there has to be some optimism that those in charge are making the right moves to correct the problems.
Understanding the basketball program is less than a full season removed from making an exciting trip to the Sweet 16 in Indianapolis last March, it’s third NCAA trip in four seasons, and the second time to the tournament’s second weekend over that time span, and the football team was just a win away on Halloween from getting back to a bowl game, there’s still plenty of reasons for so many frowns.
In our current “what have you done lately” culture, there is little patience for Syracuse fans accustomed to winning in basketball and going deep in the NCAA Tournament, and expecting at least semi-regular trips to a postseason football game played at attractive locales, not the 29-43 record and one bowl appearance sported in the six-year Dino Babers era.
No matter the winning or losing, good seasons or bad, it’s impossible for us not to keep Orange sports developments in perspective.
Syracuse athletics have been a major part of our life since 1975. We’ve studied the history of the major programs throughout the 20th century, while also interviewing or befriending some of those historical participants over multiple decades. From August to May each academic year, virtually every week and weekend we’ve been consumed by everything Orangemen evolving to Orange as both a loyal supporter and member of the media.
With that said, heading into what certainly looks like a rare non-winning basketball season and NCAA Tournament absence, coming on the heels of being one of four ACC football teams to not go bowling, we continue to have a “glass half full” attitude.
This year’s basketball roster is the basketball roster, and unfortunately looks a step slow and too many missed opportunities away from sustaining the winning season streak. Jim Boeheim’s staff has been intact for five seasons with NCAA Tournaments each year, but the growing resentment and call for a changing of the guard has been loud this winter with no likely NCAA run to bail out the negative.
But remember, Jim Boeheim is going to leave when he decides to retire, and if there’s work being done behind the scenes to facilitate sons Jimmy and Buddy playing together one more season in 2022-23, then he’s not going anywhere.
There is also talent on the way if all five verbal commitments in the ’22 recruiting class stay on schedule to join the program this summer, also acknowledging the roster churn that sends players the other direction into the transfer portal.
The football program made the offseason coaching moves it needed to make benefitting from an ACC rival undergoing a change in direction, and is feverishly adding a dash or two of talent to the roster of returnees from both the transfer portal and traditional recruiting.
Long term, the plans to erect a new football facility that is twice as large as the current edifice is proof that the administration is committed to delivering an ACC-worthy program by bringing in the best talent that fits the university’s culture.
It’s an uncharacteristic down year for Syracuse football and basketball, but with mobile sports betting now legal in New York State, we’d invest in futures wagering that there will be a turnaround.