Syracuse introduced new athletic director Mark Coyle on Monday morning at a press conference filled with orange ties, gratuitous applause and optimism for the next chapter of the university’s athletic department. Coyle emerged from a field of nine candidates who were brought to campus on May 28 and 29. He got the job over the other finalist, Ohio State executive associate athletic director Martin Jarmond. Among those Syracuse expressed interest in were Buffalo athletic director Danny White, Bucknell’s John Hardt and Ohio’s Jim Schaus.
After the applause dies down, the reality of Coyle’s hire is that he inherits an athletic department in need of immediate fixing. Orange football has been broken for more than a decade, its basketball program faces significant NCAA sanctions and there’s unanswered questions over the potential transition from Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim to longtime assistant Mike Hopkins. Coyle comes from the athletic director’s job Boise State—his best line at the press conference was that the Carrier Dome turf will “stay green”—after stints as an assistant athletic director at Kentucky and Minnesota.
With Syracuse in flux, here’s Coyle’s take on the future.
SI.com: Syracuse football has been essentially broken for a decade. You said in the press conference that the goals are ACC championships and special bowl games. I’m curious what you’re looking for in a football coach, staff and the way that he runs the program.
Coyle: I think the first thing I need to do is sit down with coach [Scott] Shafer and his staff. You cover enough programs and have been to enough campuses. A lot of times little things make a huge difference for a program. I’m going to evaluate the program and step in and provide assistance and help where I can. Obviously as I mentioned earlier, there’s no one who wants to win more than the current student athletes and football staff. I’m gong to do everything I can do help.
You mentioned little things. What were some little things you did at Boise?
I was surprised when I got to Boise State. They had not won a conference football championship since 2009. They have had phenomenal success out there. When I had the chance to sit down with coach [Chris] Petersen, they didn’t have grass practice field at Boise. We put in a brand new, state of the art grass practice field. They didn’t have a football complex. We had conversations and got that done: the Bleymaier Football Center [that cost $22 million]. We updated the video boards and LED signage. The little things like that make a huge difference.
In all my years of seeing hiring press conferences, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone mention the search firm twice. Rarely once. Never twice. You did that today with DHR International. If there’s a change soon in football, will you definitely hire them? That’s obviously the way the world works these days in college sports.
I know you don’t know me well. I’m very appreciative of people who give me opportunity. When I recognized Glenn (Sugiyama) and Pat (Richter) I was just being respectful. They worked with the institution. I worked with the search committee and the chancellor. When I was at Boise State and Chris Petersen left, we did not use a search firm to hire coach (Bryan) Harsin. Again, I can’t speculate on what the future holds. Each institution has its uniqueness. When coach Petersen left, there were a handful of very qualified coach with ties to Boise, including Bryan Harsin. It depends on the situation.
[daily_cut]The most intriguing word in your opening press conference was when you referenced future “announcements” in relation to the transition from Boeheim to Hopkins. Can you illuminate that?
First off, I can’t tell you how excited I am to work with coach Boeheim. I did have some conversations with coach Boeheim and the chancellor (Kent Syverud). More conversations and more announcements from that point later on.
People involved with the search process indicated there’s an urgency for the chancellor to formalize the succession plan in basketball. Boeheim’s three years have never been put into writing, so I’ve heard there’s administrative concern about holding him to that. Any indicator of a timetable for this process?
Again, we’ll have announcements coming in the future from that standpoint.
There’s a gap growing between the haves and have nots in college football, the Power 5 and non-Power 5. Some people have indicated that you taking the Syracuse job and Todd Stansbury of UCF taking Oregon State are signs of the urgency felt to reach the Power 5 level. What are your thoughts on that gap now that you’re on the other side?
I’m not sure I’m going to answer your question directly. I was very public last year and will say the same things this year. You have to win your games.