A quick take on Syracuse football’s participation and other notes revolving around the 2022 ACC Kickoff media event, being held Wednesday and Thursday at The Westin Charlotte in uptown Charlotte, N.C.:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse coach Dino Babers and three players, quarterback Garrett Shrader (Charlotte native), linebacker Mikel Jones, and offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron, represented the Orange program as the seven Atlantic Division teams kicked off the agenda on Wednesday. Each team’s contingent made a visit to the event’s radio row for multiple interviews, conducted a 30-minute televised press conference, followed by breakout sessions consisting of more interviews with the assembled media. Commissioner Jim Phillips got the day started with his state of the conference address (see below). Thursday, the seven Coastal Division teams will be showcased, preceding the final season in which ACC football will utilize the two-division format.
ANALYSIS: Second year commissioner Philips was ready to answer the inevitable questions about Power Five conference realignment and the ACC’s future during his morning session, but not before he fervently stressed the traditional goal of college sports administrators in their role to provide the best possible student-athlete experience for all participants, in each sport, and at every institution. “We are all responsible for the greater good of the enterprise,” he repeated twice. On the ACC moving forward, Phillips has to make sure his revenue partners, ESPN and each school’s administrative offices, are on the same page. “By all metrics, we are one of the leaders in the country, except the revenue piece of it,” Phillips acknowledged. “A year ago, we were talking about the same thing. It’s been my primary focus. We have some other things coming forward (in the near future) with our revenue partners, and we talk almost daily with ESPN about the next iteration of the ACC. They’re motivated, we’re motivated, all options are on the table.”
HERO: The three Syracuse players made for a perfect compliment to Babers, a day after the head coach celebrated his 61st birthday and vowed for an improved product. “We think we have a really stable foundation right now,” Babers emphasized. “These leaders behind me (on stage) have done a fantastic job in the off season with growing up the young people on this football team. We think we have the kind of team now that can go deep in November (contend for a bowl game).” Bergeron, the personable Quebec native who has been named a captain, got a chance to impress everyone in the room by fluently speaking French. Jones marveled about playing alongside the best running back he’s faced in college, teammate Sean Tucker, and Shrader is ready to be the undisputed team leader. “This is the most excited I’ve been in college for a football season,” Shrader said. “I feel like it’s my offense, my team, that I can take wherever I decide to take it. These coaches (new OC Robert Anae and QB coach Jason Beck) have done a great job, they’re really exciting to play for. We got all the pieces we need, we’ve just got to go out and do it.”
ZERO: Since joining the ACC in 2013 (nine seasons), Syracuse football has been picked in the pre-season media poll to finish either sixth or seventh in the seven team Atlantic Division six times. The only exceptions were a fourth-place prediction in 2014, a second-place prediction in 2019, and picked to finish 14th out of 15 teams in email voting in 2020 when the ‘Kickoff’ event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When this year’s predictions are revealed next week, the odds are likely that SU, coming off a 5-7 season, will be at or near the bottom of the division once again.
.WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse begins pre-season camp the week of August 1, and will have some four weeks to get ready for the season and then the home opener in the JMA Wireless Dome against conference rival Louisville on Saturday, September 3. It will be the first game contested in the building since the university announced the new naming rights deal with JMA Wireless on May 19. Louisville has won seven of the eight ACC meetings against the ‘Cuse, taking the last three games by an aggregate score of 127-37. Game Time: 8:00 p.m. ET. TV: ACC Network.