As Jim Tressel hangs from the proverbial noose, his reputation and program in tatters, Syracuse fans should once again look up to the college football heavens and wink that Doug Marrone has been sent to navigate the football program on the Hill.
When in late ’08, The Dougie won the derby to take over the Orange, what we couldn’t have realized was just how perfectly he would fit the role. Sure, his reputation was solid, his resume pretty impressive. But could you have ever thought at that time, Marrone would outlast Tressel, Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer? Even within the conference, Dave Wannstadt has been dismissed since then for a reputation of running a loose program with off the field incidents.
It’s apples to oranges in some ways. The pressure to win at Syracuse is a fraction of how bright the light shines in Columbus. Ohio State is expected to pull in 5-star recruits, win the Big 10, play in National Championship games and never, ever lose to Michigan. At SU, we throw rose petals after Pinstripe Bowl victories.
But Tressel leaves behind the unmistakable stench of (at best) ignorance and (at worst) compliance in ducking the rules of college football. Is the set of NCAA guidelines for student-athletes archaic? Yeah. But for a guy who sold everyone on an image of doing things the right way, the pious way, Tressel was nothing but a fraud.
For many in college football, the quick dissolution of another elite program and vultures circling the carcass (USC is in the middle of its own reboot) is terrifying. If Ohio State can be brought to its knees, who’s next? AD’s are asking, What are WE skirting the rules on?
Yet, here’s Syracuse fans whistling past the frightened masses. Does anyone worry that Marrone is not running a tight ship? That the widespread corruption and sliding around rules that uncovered itself at Ohio State could happen on the Hill? Again, Syracuse under Marrone will likely never have to satisfy the appetites for cars and money that a player like Terrelle Pryor demands. The blood thirsty expectation of an entire state to deliver championships and top-5 rankings brings with it a different set of problems. Marrone is looking for $4 million to upgrade its facilities. That’s the travel expenses of the Buckeyes’ marching band.
But Marrone has proven it a priority to run a tight ship and recruit players with high character. To be fair, he has also brought in some kids with baggage and stepped through a few minefields of his own making. Ashton Broyld exposes himself during a high school playoff game. Malcolm Cater steals from his teammates. Brice Hawkes proves to be a total knucklehead.
You like to give high school kids second chances, but The Dougie would be wise to avoid being tantalized by skilled players whose attitudes don’t mesh with the culture at SU. There’s no shortcut to success. Build it the right way and you never have to worry about who’s looking through the windows.
The media glare is harsher. The news cycle more vicious. Therefore, the NCAA has to grow sharper teeth to cut through programs. Feel satisfied Marrone is steering this ship, because at least on the surface, it appears he’s running a clean, successful program. We should all be thankful Marrone is the one calling the shots. But as a football program gets bigger, there’s more and more forbidden fruit. Hey Dougie – just leave it on the tree.