Syracuse is hiring Georgia assistant coach Fran Brown to take over, and if the program is going to win, this is how. Brown is the right hire for SU. There is a pecking order that has been so clearly established in college football., There are kings, there are princes, and there are paupers. There is very defined strata in the sport. Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia, schools like these are the kings. They win national championships and stockpile 5-star talent. Then there are the healthy programs which win 8-10 games a year, and while not collecting crystal footballs, they have more good Saturdays than bad ones. Then there are the paupers. These are the schools that wake up in September and pray to get to 6 wins and a Fenway Bowl, hoping they don’t lose to Clemson by 42 at the Dome.
Yes, the opening has widened for more schools to elevate levels now. The expanded playoff helps. The NIL dynamic helps. The transfer portal really helps. But ultimately, Syracuse has been trapped in the third tier for 25 years. There have been multiple attempts to revive it, push it up the ladder, but all have failed. The days of competing for a conference championship and having the #2 pick in the NFL Draft under center feels like a different universe. So how can they get back there?
The first step is realizing where you reside and what your true potential is. Syracuse should never dream of winning national titles, having Heisman trophy winners, and a head coach around for 20 years. Instead, SU should dream of the second-tier. That’s Michigan State, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Kansas State, and Utah. These types of schools expect to go to good bowl games, occasionally play for the league title, and fans melt down when they go 4-8. Being a prince is a good place to be, enjoyable fall weekends, largely full crowds, plenty of games on national television.
Brown is the right hire for Syracuse because it taps into that understanding. Forget chasing big name coaches looking for a career rebound (Dan Mullen, Dana Holgorsen). Don’t worry about finding a coach with Syracuse roots (Doug Marrone, Scott Shafer). And look for youth, a coach on the ascent. The reality is if this works Brown will move to a bigger job in 5-7 years. That’s fine. It means you have to find the another Brown. But the idea is that the job becomes a healthy stepping stone, just like the Bearcats grew into.
Brown is the right hire because he’s from New Jersey, and SU must have support from the Jersey high school coaches (look at Greg Schiano 1.0 at Rutgers). He’s been an assistant on a program at the “King tier,” and that cache translates for recruits. He understands “pauper” programs in the Northeast after stints with Temple and Rutgers. And he believes that he can win kids over without the big brand behind him.
“Without the logo, who are you?” That quote has stayed with me since watching a video of Brown explain his recruiting philosophy. He wants to win over recruits with his persona, not with the logo on his hat. Easy to say at Georgia, but that’s the attitude that it will take at Syracuse. Brown is the right hire because if it works, it will take all of these dynamics in unison. And if it works, he will be gone. But that’s okay, because it will have created a template for the next coach to copy. Be the prince and happiness will follow.