I recently got this question into the mailbag, and thought I would write with an extended answer.
Andrew in New York writes: Andrea, What do you think of Doug Marrone's future with Syracuse if he has another disappointing year? This is the last year on his contract (I think), and with the transition to the ACC in 2013 (hopefully), and a very difficult out of conference schedule in 2012, it raises the question as to whether Syracuse would hire a higher-profile coach to make the move to the ACC, especially with the increase in revenue that it will receive from the ACC.
Andrea Adelson: First a little clarification. I believe Marrone has two years left on his contract -- 2012 and 2013, so there is no doubt this an absolutely critical year for him. If the Orange stumble again, and he does not get a contract extension, the potential is there for him to be coaching in the ACC in Year 1 as a "lame duck."
Given the schedule and the way last season ended, many are predicting another stumble (myself included) in 2012. Marrone had a terrible mess to clean up when he arrived at the school, and deserved all the praise he got for taking the Orange to a bowl game in 2010. That ratcheted up expectations, and so did a 5-2 start that featured a Friday night win against West Virginia. You understand why so many folks were disappointed with the way the season ended.
This season poses its own set of challenges, most specifically the schedule you alluded to. It is one of the hardest nonconference schedules in the country. But I am not ready to say Marrone is on the hot seat just yet. I had a chance to ask athletic director Daryl Gross how he will judge the results of this season given that schedule. He gave a pretty strong backing to the work Marrone has done headed into Year 4.
"Last year until we had the slide at the end, we were looking like the program was really back," Gross said. "We felt like we played a tough game against Rutgers we felt we should have won. After that West Virginia game, that would have put us at six wins. Unfortunately, then we got banged up, lost a game, got surprised at Louisville and things got spinning the wrong way. I believe all those issues have been resolved. Doug and his team have had a great offseason, psychologically and physically. They’re at a really great place right now, and there’s more reinforcements coming in. The depth is continuing to grow. He’s laid a very good foundation. We’re getting a little bigger, a little faster, a little stronger. You see it coming together like a brand new house. It’s exciting to watch.
"The tough part will be, because we’re in this conference transition, you’re on the road at Missouri. Yeah we’re going to have a tough schedule next year. It’s one of the toughest schedules in the country, but I’ve got a football coach that says bring it on, this is what we want to do this is how we’re going to build our program. We’re going to get after it. We’re starting to get the kids we need to get. We’ve got the character we need to have. We have the style of play we want to have.
"Yes, this will be a very, very, very, very tough year. But I wouldn’t want to see anyone lead it but Doug. It’s not like Doug’s come to me and said, 'I don’t like this schedule.' We want his input when we make these decisions, and we want to style the program the way he wants us to style it."