You want a reason beyond wins and losses why Doug Marrone is the right man for the job? He’s helping Syracuse football think outside the box. A fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal highlighted SU’s ongoing search to find football players in the five boroughs of New York City – a traditionally shallow talent pool.
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While the tri-state suburbs of New Jersey and Long Island consistently produce highly-rated recruits and NFL talent, NYC does not. Facilities aren’t up to par, neighborhood fields are in disarray, the focus is always on basketball. But The Dougie – a Big Apple product himself – is using that as a strength.
“If guys from Texas, Florida and New York are all even, who has the better upside? The New York kid plays four or five less games per year, so if he’s the same he’s better because he can develop.”
“What [city kids] lack is the development. Here’s the million dollar question: How many players would come out if New York had more games and spring football? 25? 50?”
“We’re a developmental school, we don’t have the luxury yet to choose a 6-foot-3 guy or the 260 -pound defensive end. We’re going to take athletes.”
I love it. Billy Beane became such a pop culture icon and modern sports iconoclast/hero Brad Pitt is playing him in a big-budget film. How? By exploiting market inefficiencies in baseball. That’s exactly what The Dougie is attempting in NYC.
When you’re Syracuse, you can’t stroll into the homes of the 5-star kids, wave your hand like Obi Wan and throw them a jersey. Hell, even elite kids in your own backyard are choosing to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to play big-time college football. So, how do you level the playing field?
You do more homework than the other guys. You offer earlier than the other guys. And you look for kids the other guys aren’t interested in. Project: NYC may never end up paying dividends. There’s a long history that suggests elite football talent just isn’t coming out of the concrete jungle. But you don’t know if you don’t try.
And it’s not like Marrone is just throwing crap against the wall and seeing what sticks. You’re recruiting in-state. It dovetails with the attempt to extend SU’s footprint into the Big Apple. You’re using your familiarity and relationships on your home turf.
“SU is mining New York for a few indicators of future success – big hands, broad shoulders and raw athleticism, and New York has plenty of that.”
There’s a method to the madness. That was Money Ball. This is Marroney Ball.