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State of the Orange: Part 1, Sins of the Father

DOCTOR or the Devil?
The State of the Orange is not something easily discussed these days. While Syracuse is one of the few schools that has enjoyed success in all three of the top three sports in the NCAA, Syracuse Football, and yes athletics as a whole at Syracuse, have taken a sharp and historic turn for the worse. Who is behind this, what does this mean, and what will happen now? These are the questions that many of the Orange faithful have been asking these days. This three part essay will attempt to discuss the major players in the fall of the Orange, address the current rumors regarding our football program and the athletic department, and give some insight as to what the hell happened.

In this special report, we start with the man behind the curtain presently at Manley Field House, Dr. Daryl Gross. Everything rests with the man at the top. The buck does stop somewhere, and in every case, it has to stop with the man upstairs. Since winter of 2004 my opinions of Gross have greatly changed. He was hired to replace grizzled veteran of the department, and a founding father of the Big East Conference, Jake Crouthamel.

Crouthamel had his problems and criticisms like every AD that comes through the door, but he was mostly liked and extremely well respected by his peers. After the university changed its logo and went from “Orangemen” to “Orange” many students and alumni thought that it was time for Jake to leave. This was only solidified when he again refused to fire Coach P. Gross was hired shortly after the Champs Sports Bowl blowout in 2004 and on December 29th, he proceeded to fire Coach P. While most saw this as the right move for the football team at the time, I am sure we all yearn for a six win season again. Crouthamel was not the most popular, but at least he was respected and helped the university weather some rough storms. A former football coach himself, I believe he probably knew exactly what was best for the university at the time.

Then the Gross era in Syracuse began. With a flashy start, he proceeded to shake up the Athletic Department. By shake up, I mean bring in people extremely unqualified to do their jobs. Let me explain. You see, it all starts back in USC. Gather around for story time kids.

At USC Daryl had a graduate assistant named Lael. She worked in the athletic department after graduation for three years, babysitting Daryl’s kids. Daryl then takes the job at Syracuse, and what do you know, she comes with him. She even gets the job of Assistant Director of Athletics for Marketing. Which, I think everyone thought was kind of funny for someone with only three years experience and no Masters Degree. Surprise surprise, Daryl gets a divorce. Not that this was not already the talk of the athletic department. Sure enough Lael now has the last name of Gross. Funny how things work out like that.

While the above is a funny aside, and while we at Orange::44 condemn adultery all the while finding it hilarious, this is merely meant to illustrate the simple fact that there are not enough competent people at the athletic department. A good university athletic program starts with the top and filters down. Competent people must be in place to provide a basis for success. I have always respected the Edson’s, and Pete Sala, and even Barbra Henderson, those people, coincidentally hired during the previous administration, are not the majority in the athletic department these days.

Since the start of the 2005-2006 school year, the football team has gone won only five games, and only one of which was a Big East victory. In the 2006-2007 school year the lacrosse team failed to make the postseason for the first time in about 25 years, and Syracuse Basketball became the first team in the history of the Big East to get 10 wins in league play and not make the NCAA Tournament. This is obviously grossly (no pun intended) underachieving as compared to the previous history of the programs.

Along with underachieving teams, there is the issue of disbanding the swimming and diving program. I have been privy to some documents which have chronicled some meetings within the closed doors of the athletic department regarding Daryl Gross, Assistant AD Henry Wildhack. In these meetings, which are most likely referenced in this article from Phil Whitten, Executive Director of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, it is evident that Gross made this decision based on criteria in his own head, along with misinformation. By now you have surely heard the arguments based on this, therefore assuming you know the facts, you know Gross acted completely in haste and without fully analyzing the athletic department for the best possibility. That is if you believe Whitten, which I mostly do.

The NCAA determines championship participation in sending one or more swimmers to the NCAA finals in swimming. Syracuse has sent one or two members at least 75% of the time for the last 25 years. Therefore this argument of not being a championship caliber team is false. Also, many parents have offered to apply for grants and donate money totaling one million dollars to run the swimming and diving program. Gross has not commented on this. The only assumption to draw is that this decision was based on some notion of Title IX, which as we all know is supposed to provide equality, but really gets rid of men’s teams at Syracuse (see baseball, wrestling, gymnastics). In addition to this, the Tennity Ice Skating Pavilion was purposely built before the 2001 school year to be too small to support a Division 1 Ice Hockey team. Gross suggests that cost is the real reason, citing that to have the swimming team compete they would need a $25 million upgrade to the facility. Well, upgrading the ice hockey facilities will cost something as well.

The moral of the story is Gross is handling our (yes, as a student or alumni you have a stake in the AD, therefore it is yours) athletic department poorly. Therefore, we have to decide if it is the time to fire Gross at the end of the year, give him another year, or fire him after the football season. I have heard a completely unsubstantiated rumor that Gross’ contract is up at the end of this school year, and he has tried to renegotiate but the school has refused, thus basically giving him a no confidence vote. However, others have told me his contract goes two more years. I am still checking on this angle of the story.

So where does this leave the Orange? Continuing to operate status quo will no longer suffice for the fan base. Especially when the fans of the Orange (I love you but it is true) are so “fair weather” that the money and season tickets will continue to evaporate in the path of an apathetic or unresponsive athletic director.

It is pointless to predict what actions Gross would do in the future, and I will specifically address the football situation with Greg Robinson in Part II of this article, but there is one rumor which I have heard that could be interesting to throw out. Jim Boeheim retires as coach in two years, when Gross’ contract is up. Then he becomes AD for as long as he wants the job. He could be with his family, he knows the school better than most, and fans of the Orange everywhere would rejoice.

Most people are focused on the present however. With quotes like "You've just got to keep watching to see if this team shows some signs of progressing. I'll keep watching, keep listening, keep watching, keep listening . . . and see where we go" and "We're gonna get his thing fixed, and Greg (Robinson) wants to get it fixed, and he's telling me, 'I'm gonna get it fixed’”, I’m afraid that nothing will happen for the better. With losing and incompetency the hallmarks of the Gross Era in Syracuse Athletics something has to change. That needs to be a football coach, athletic director, chancellor, or all three.

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a three part special report on the State of the Orange. Part two will focus on Greg Robinson and the football team, found here.

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6 Responses to “State of the Orange: Part 1, Sins of the Father”

  1. # Blogger MariusJanulisForThree

    Good ish. You know, the fact his contract would be up soon makes sense. He wouldn't have been signed to a very long term deal in the first place...  

  2. # Blogger Alex L.

    Full disclosure. I am a BC fan and alum. I know that doesn't make me popular here, but I just wanted to say awesome, awesome win against Louisville!  

  3. # Blogger SUMB44

    First order of business, Boston College: (Sung to the tune of the BC fight song)

    For Boston, For Boston
    The outhouse on the hill.
    For Boston, For Boston
    You suck and always will.

    So here's to the outhouse
    On the hill!
    BC Sucks and always will!

    For Boston, For Boston
    The outhouse on the hill!

    Now with that formality out of the way...

    All I will say is that Dr. Gross bears an uncanny resemblance in physical appearance and mendacity of Dr. No.  

  4. # Blogger Brian Harrison

    I definitely sang that verson in the Fenway T stop this past weekend. Always a good decision.  

  5. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Someone please tell Lael Gross to pinch her husband and wake up and keep the swim team. Lael Gross (Chealander) was a good swimmer at USC while Gross was there...apparently doing a lot more than rooting for the Trojans!  

  6. # Anonymous Anonymous

    An interesting information. Definitely bookmarked! I even wish to advertise here... My site is related to sports video games. Pls feel free to email me at:  

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