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The Painful ($) Truth on Why Mark Coyle Left Syracuse

Syracuse was blindsided by the news Wednesday that AD Mark Coyle would be leaving for Minnesota. Jim Boeheim called it “shocking” (and you have to imagine he has a pretty good grasp of what’s going on in that athletic department). While Syracuse’s official statement said it was for family reasons, one has to wonder if this is merely a career leap-frog. My guess is he got a healthy pay raise. At SU Coyle made a base salary of $333K according to USA Today. Possible bonuses could reportedly reach $450K. Minnesota’s last full-time AD Norwood Teague could make up to $560K (with perks) annually.

This much is certain: He has jumped around. A lot. He’s gone from Miami, to Minnesota, to Kentucky, to Boise State, to Syracuse, and now back to Minnesota. No word on whether he was the Browns coach for a season in there as well. This is likely just a next career step. He was only at SU for 11 months. There’s no way he could feel like his job was done on the Hill. The coach he hired for football hasn’t been on the sideline yet.

This will be a very tough pill to swallow, but a middle-of-the-pack public school in the Big 10 is a more enticing job than SU’s (and not just because it pays more). For all of us that love and root for the Cuse, that fact just keeps slapping us in the face. As a private school without monster donor checkbooks (think Duke, Baylor, USC), SU will always be one of the lowest paying jobs in the Power 5. Minnesota is a public school (here’s its state fundings over the last 15 years – you think Syracuse would like some of that?), with an enormous enrollment, the state’s power program, in a filthy rich conference.

Minnesota has 50,000 students. Syracuse has a little over 20,000. The Gophers gets $27.6 M per year from the Big 10, Syracuse will get a little over $22 M. The Big 10 Network is a cash cow. The ACC has nothing to match that. The ACC is ranked 5th of the Power 5 in revenue. The Big 10 is second. Minnesota is located in the 15th largest TV market in the America. Syracuse is 81 (and losing ground annually). There are 18 Fortune 500 companies in the state of Minnesota. They are almost all located in the Twin Cities. CNY has none (they’re all concentrated around NYC which is why SU has desperately tried to become NY’s College Team and energized efforts to tap into the Big Apple alumni).

That means it’s easier to lure good coaches. It’s easier to keep good coaches. It’s easier to flesh out coaching staffs, recruit better, create better facilities, and stay in the college athletics arms races.

The basketball program at Minnesota is not nearly what SU is and likely never will be. But in football, Minnesota is actually a much more stable money maker. The Gophers have made a bowl game almost every year since ’99 (13 in 16 seasons). They have their very own, brand new open-air on-campus stadium, the kind many Orange fans wish would happen in CNY. The Gophers used to play in a covered, dark, cavernous, anti-septic dome that was owned by someone else, on the few beautiful fall Saturdays in the Upper Midwest. Sound familiar?

This move not only forces SU to scramble to begin its AD search anew for the 2nd time in a calendar year, it makes the Dino Babers and Mike Hopkins situations uncertain. The new AD will inherit two MAJOR decisions made just before he was hired. Will the new guy have patience with Babers? And will the new guy agree with the Chancellor’s call to make Hop the next man in charge?

Had Coyle botched the last few months, maybe you could rationalize cutting your losses. But he seemed to be doing most things smartly. Which makes this frustrating. And the end result is the same: Can SU ever find stability in its major athletic positions if it remains a stepping-stone?

At the end of the day, Minnesota has more money in it and around it. That’s why Coyle left.

Posted: Damon Amendolara

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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