Darryl Gross needed to go. There’s been too many misses on his watch in that department for far too long. He headed a unit that broke NCAA rules and seemed to disregard compliance (or circumvent the system) for years. He’s hired two failing football coaches, and engendered major distrust for things like retiring #44 and selling the school’s soul to Nike. Gross always seemed in over his head, a guy desperately trying to keep his head above water while doggy-paddling in the open seas.
Was it all bad under Gross? No. He helped facilitate the Melo Center, which is an athletic crown jewel. He ushered in an era of modernization of the department and how SU looked at athletic revenue. He got SU onto the ACC boat, and off of the sinking Big East ship. Imagine Syracuse being UConn, and swimming aimlessly in the American Conference. Jake Crouthamel, while being now a beloved, nostalgic figure of the good ol’ days, was outdated. He was a Model T in a world of Zip Cars. The department needed new, fresh, young ideas. Someone to look at things a different way. Gross did that.
But the NCAA scandal was too heavy a burden to bear, and Gross always felt like he was teetering on the brink of being fired anyway. That he lasted a decade is probably a miracle unto itself, although SU has always moved at a glacial pace (when it was allowed to). Gross needed to go.
The next AD needs to look at branding (like Gross), but not overdo it (like Gross). The next AD needs to find ways to bring boosters and donors and fans into the mix, to find revenue streams to keep up with the other ACC schools. But not to look desperate. And that was always a Gross problem: Syracuse always seemed like it was reaching. “NY’s College Team!”
Three years seems like the perfect time frame for Jim Boeheim to leave. It doesn’t appear to the public like he’s being forced out immediately (and we know Boeheim and Syracuse want to control the “appearance”). But it gives us all a clear exit sign on the highway. For too long we’ve driven on the highway, knowing the trip would end sometime soon, but never having a mileage marker. Boeheim gets his talented ’15 Class for three seasons. He gets a few more cracks at the Final Four. And he also gets a swan song in ’17-’18. He’ll get serenaded everywhere he goes, get to be the king leaving on his throne (in some ways), pandered to by all his friends in college basketball (if not the snarky national media critics).
Few of us in Orange Nation wanted to see Boeheim “forced out” – he’s meant too much to the school and the region and the program. But it did seem like we were on an interminable march into the darkness, simply guessing every year what would happen and when it would happen. Now with an answer on those questions, the program can begin moving through the sanctions and into a new era.