Well, as much as a lot of us hoped that things would turn around enough for Syracuse University head football coach Scott Shafer to get at least another year to prove himself on the sideline, word has come down that the coach has been let go. He will coach the team’s final game against Boston College this Saturday. The move comes following a 42-29 road loss at NC State, and in the midst of an eight game losing streak.
Unfortunately for Shafer, and for the Shafer supporters out there, the momentum has slowly but surely been swinging in this direction going back a few games. In retrospect, the South Florida loss doesn’t look so bad with the Bulls on the verge of finishing the season at 8-4, and the LSU and Clemson losses were valiant efforts, but the game against Louisville really seemed to be the point where things shifted. Sports Illustrated was the first to report the change at the top of the Syracuse football program:
Syracuse HC Scott Shafer has been dismissed & will coach final game vs. BC per source.
— Thayer Evans (@ThayerEvansTLA) November 23, 2015
By all accounts, Shafer is a terrific guy, and he’s done some very good things with the Syracuse football program behind the scenes in the community and in getting his guys to excel in the classroom. But college football is a results driven business, and while it’s tough to get proven results in three seasons, the fact that the team has won just six of its last 23 games – no matter what kind of unlucky breaks and injuries have come its way – had to weigh heavily on the mind of Mark Coyle. And as a first year athletics director at Syracuse, Coyle obviously wants to make his mark on the biggest revenue sport there is, particularly with Carrier Dome renovations coming down the pipeline.
Now the question is, who will be the next head coach? From everything I’ve heard, the strong indication is that Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost is the frontrunner. If that’s the direction things move, I can see it becoming a potentially strong hire. Mark Coyle interviewed Frost for the Boise State head coaching job a few years ago, so he’s already very familiar with him as a candidate and that could (and perhaps should) expedite the process. And let’s be honest – expediting the process is essential at this point.
That’s because the next big step is trying to save the recruiting class, as well as get the younger players at Syracuse on board with whoever the new hire turns out to be. The benefit of making this move now, as opposed to waiting until December, is that it will hopefully give the new coach enough time to convince recruits to stay committed, and go out and fill out the rest of the class.
If Frost is the guy, there are a couple of things that immediately jump to mind as potential question marks, of course. First, he’s never been a head coach. Second, he doesn’t have any ties to the northeast, having grown up in Nebraska and played quarterback for the Huskers. He played a couple of seasons for the New York Jets, but since entering the coaching world, he hasn’t been on the East Coast.
Second, Frost is only 40 years old. That should be a good thing on paper, but coupled with the fact that he has no ties to the northeast, it tells me that if he’s even remotely successful at Syracuse, he’d be gone in a heartbeat, using SU as a stepping stone – particularly if the Nebraska job comes open in the near future, since you’d have to assume that’d be his dream destination.
That’s assuming Frost is the guy, of course. There are other names being tossed around, of course. I’ve heard from multiple people that Coyle also has LSU defensive line coach (and former Syracuse assistant) Ed Orgeron and Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley on his list, and Utah State coach Matt Wells is apparently someone Coyle thinks very highly of. But if I were a betting man, assuming the money is right, I’d wager Frost is the guy.
We’ll see how it all plays out. I wish things could have worked out for Scott Shafer. He seems like a hell of a guy, and his players almost universally love him. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, all of the good was negated by what was happening on the scoreboard.