Syracuse’s sports nutrition program lags behind every other school in the ACC and players and their high school coaches have noticed. The Fizz is digging into an issue that might be hindering Syracuse football and Syracuse athletics as a whole. Recently, Steve Linton’s high school coach expressed concern that SU was only serving one football meal per day to its players.
“Quite frankly was a little bit of a concern to me that a lot of the places you‚Äôre eating the pre-planned meals three times a day at the division one football level,‚Äù Linton’s coach said.
When the Fizz asked Mikel Jones about it at ACC Media Days this week he also confirmed that there is room for improvement. “I feel like we’re behind compared to a lot of people,” Jones told the Fizz. There aren’t enough meals and options for food offered to the student-athletes.
The offseason is the most crucial time for players to gain weight and transform their bodies to get ready for the upcoming season. It starts with a grueling fall camp and then the grind of the season. If players aren’t prepared from a physical standpoint for the four-month campaign, how can you expect them to stay healthy and perform at a high level through the year? And as recruiting arms races continue to rise, SU looks behind in player support to other schools.
We spoke with current Syracuse linebacker Mikel Jones about this issue at the ACC Kickoff. He said there is definitely room for improvement and thinks some change could benefit the Orange and stop holding the program back from reaching higher levels. In a tweet we released, SU student-athletes, administrators, and parents of athletes reacted to the tweet with likes. Clearly, there seems to be something missing in the athletics department, and some positive change could prove extremely beneficial.
Former SU tight end Aaron Hackett, defensive lineman Curtis Harper, father of current defensive lineman Josh Hough, freshman defensive lineman Kevin Jobity, and the mother of SU women’s Lax star Megan Carney have all liked the following tweet:
Jessica Garay is a Professor of Nutrition and echoes the lack of resources in this department. The closest thing we could find to a dedicated sports nutritionist or dietician at Syracuse is an employee named Veronica Tearney. Her job title is listed as “nutrition and spirit program.” In an era of increased staffing for every piece of Power 5 football programs, sports nutrition doesn’t appear to be getting sufficient support. In light of this we decided to research the rest of the ACC and see if this is the norm or an outlier. Here’s what we found:
Pittsburgh: Has a sports dietician on football staff (Pitt won an ACC title in her first year on staff)
Duke: Has a Director of Football Nutrition (Joined program in April 2022, previously worked at Nebraska & Minnesota Vikings)
Miami: Has a Director of Football Nutrition and two assistants (Joined in February 2022, previously at Georgia for 2021 National Championship)
Wake Forest: No football nutritionist or dietician but has a Director of Sports Nutrition (since 2020)
Virginia: Has a sports nutrition department with a director and two assistants (since 2010)
Virginia Tech: Has a Director of Football Sports Nutrition (Joined in July 2020)
Florida State: Has a sports nutrition department with a director and assistant (Entering second year of existence)
Clemson: Has a Director of Football Performance Nutrition (Entering 7th year, previously at Alabama)
Louisville: Has a massive sports nutrition department with seven employees with a Director of Football Nutrition
Boston College: Has a two person department regarding athletic and sport nutrition
Georgia Tech: Has a performance nutrition department with two employees (In place in 2003)
NC State: Has a three-person sports nutrition department with a dedicated football nutritionist (In place since before the 2020 season)
As you can see, every other program in the ACC either has a football specific nutritionist or dietician. Some schools have a whole department with multiple employees focused solely on sports nutrition and dieting. Syracuse is the ONLY school without this. Some of these programs have only recently created these positions, but at the moment Syracuse is trailing every other school and the clock is ticking.
Schools that have recently added this important department have seen big returns on investment. Pitt added a football nutritionist last year and won the ACC.
The lack of a nutritionist or dietician is not the sole reason Syracuse is a bottom feeder in the conference. But it’s telling that SU trails every other school in this resource and players and their families want to see big improvement. This is a competitive advantage a school can control. Dino Babers may not be able to convince a five-star recruit to come to the Hill, but SU can upgrade resources and invest more into a program which competes in the Power 5.
Here are some visuals of what’s offered at other ACC schools in terms of facilities and nutrition resources:
If SU wants to emerge out conference realignment and have a program that TV big wigs and mega-conferences want, then it needs to win. In order to win SU needs to make an investment in the program. Yes, Syracuse did that with the recent announcement to upgrade its facilities. However, sports nutrition is a more immediate next step. Every other ACC program has already added this valuable department and now SU needs too. Ignoring this need will continue to hinder Syracuse in recruiting and reaching new heights as a football program and athletics program. High school players see what other schools are offering and compare it with SU, and at the moment that’s a losing battle for the Orange.