Daryl Gross needed to go, many of us have been saying this for a long time. While Gross ushered in a much-needed era of modernization and branding after the Jake Crouthamel years, his overall effectiveness was always in question. I still believe the removal of Coach P was the correct decision. His replacement, however, was the worst decision in Syracuse sports history (no hyperbole). While Gross definitely helped find new revenue sources (how much Tops signage could he squeeze into the Dome?), he also came off as a modern day huckster. And in the wake of the latest NCAA sanctions, Gross had to go.
So Syracuse.com’s piece yesterday about just how roiling the waters are in the athletic department right now is either cause for celebration or concern. Let’s start with associate athletics director for marketing Marc Donabella, who’s on leave: According to a report by the Onondaga County sheriff’s department, Donabella was arrested March 1 after driving off a bridge on I-81 North and down an embankment near Brewerton Road. He was transported to SUNY-Upstate hospital and declined to take a blood-alcohol test. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.
Oh, well that’s fantastic. Seems like a good decision-maker.
Not surprisngly, Gross’ wife, Lael, is leaving. She was an assistant athletics director for trademarks and licensing. She appeared well-qualified for the job, since she had run corporate sponsorships at USC. But there were always skeptics grumbling of nepotism with her hiring, fair or unfair.
Meantime, Terry Donovan has been removed as chief financial officer of the athletic department. He was there since ’11. Joe Giansante was placed on administrative leave as soon as Gross stepped down. On top of that, SU’s two deputy athletic directors, Herm Frazier and Renee Baumgartner, and the school’s compliance director, Erlease Wagner, all were present at the now infamous “Fab Melo Meetings.” Are they going to survive the new AD?
The Gross era will largely be remembered poorly by SU fans. He always dripped of saleman, instead of earnestly connecting with the SU fans. And once you hire Groobers, many things cannot be unseen. You’re rep is mud forever. And if Scott Shafer has a short shelf-life at SU, Gross will be blamed for that too. But there appears to be massive turnover in the athletic department now that Gross is gone. And that either means there’s finally some sunlight shining in, where too many unqualified employees ran the place. Or it’s more turmoil that will have to be solved by the new AD.