The athletic department is looking to push things forward on a Melo Center scale.
When Daryl Gross was hired as athletic director at Syracuse there was plenty of backlash. Who was this hot shot coming in from California, why is he using two cell phones, and what did he know about upstate New York? His tenure has brought plenty of good and some inarguable bad. He’s imported solid coaches into the athletic department, made Olympic sports a priority, and modernized SU’s arcane marketing philosophies under Jake Crothamel – branding the Orange as New York’s College Team. But he also hired Groobers, and has allowed Nike to become one of the most influential voices on campus (Ernie Davis’ cleats, anyone?).
The Fizz caught up with Gross in Pittsburgh for the NCAA Tournament. The past few weeks have been challenging between Fab Melo and Jim Boeheim’s APR counter-attack, but the AD says it has not been overwhelming.
“In our business this is what we do. You’re always going to have challenging times. I have an amazing staff with me. We’ve all been at big schools. We know how to deal with tough times. We know how to deal with crisis.”
At the front of The Fizz’s mind is a concern that many of our readers have inquired about: Are there plans for new football facilities that are desperately needed to help recruiting?
“We are very aggressive with football right now and fund raising for a football facility. We’ve got some things that are going to be in motion very very soon. We recognize the need to – not so much an arms race – but a needs race of what we need right now.”
Gross says he wants a Carmelo Center-quality football facility, and that things are far beyond the planning stages in getting there. While the basketball program continues to be the envy of many in the country (aside from this season’s constant controversy), and set up well for deep March runs for the foreseeable future, football lags behind its counterparts.
The move to the ACC should help distance SU from its chief rivals Rutgers and UConn on the recruiting trail. But RU’s facilities have been the priority of the school since Crazy Eyes Schiano took over, and SU has some of the most outdated football resources in all of the Big East.
The conference shift will be valuable, but also create an even bigger need for a new facility. Syracuse is now swimming in a pond with Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. While no one would expect the Orange to compete with the Seminoles’ football resources, SU has no choice but to take a step forward based on its new rivals. If the university is well beyond the planning stages, hopefully there will be an announcement of potential ground breaking, or at least a timetable coming for Orange Nation shortly.
Doug Marrone has made strides in dragging the program back out of the dark ages, but he needs more to sell. The family atmosphere is a draw, and he has reconnected so many pipelines to high school coaches across the east coast. Tyrone Wheatley is becoming a beast on the recruiting trail, and the NYC footprint is being re-established as well. But SU needs to begin landing some of the big fish in-state (Ishaq Williams, Chad Kelly), and the only way to do that is by bringing SU’s facilities into the new millenium. Gross may not want to define it as an arms race, but that unfortunately is exactly what it is.
Gross caught a lot of flak in the wake of the Bernie Fine scandal for remaining quiet. It was SU spokesman Kevin Quinn and Chancelor Nancy Cantor who spoke publicly. Gross understood the criticism, but says it comes with the territory.
“We’re part of a team and so we have a village of really good administrators that work together. Everyone has input. Everyone talks. There may be one spokesman. There may be one voice, but when we leave that room together we’re all on the same page. Don’t confuse my silence for not having input.”
Syracuse seems to have survived the Fine fiasco, although one wonders if the NCAA is investigating the department after the new of Melo, and the Yahoo! drug report. Gross has likely been faces with more daunting challenges than he could’ve figured when he arrived. But for better or worse, as he said, they have some experience in dealing with crisis.
Posted: Craig Hoffman