Every year for more than three decades the Syracuse Orange and Rutgers Scarlet Knights football programs have played each other. And despite the long-standing series, which will likely conclude this Saturday (noon ET on the Big East Network) when the two square off for the last time as Big East Conference members, there has never been a real rivalry.
This series' rivalry potential has been spoiled by terrible timing, as rarely (and maybe never) have these two programs met when either was any good. Since 1991, when both became Big East-football playing members, the Orange are 14-7 against their New Jersey foe with 12 of those victories coming from '91-04.
During that period, the Scarlet Knights compiled 11 losing seasons: Nine of them featured only four wins, one featured three wins, two featured two wins, two featured one win, one featured zero. Not to mention Rutgers failed to earn a bowl berth.
The Orange, on the other hand, compiled 11 winning seasons: Three featuring 10 wins, three featuring nine wins and there was six bowl victories.
Since then, a resurgent Rutgers program, led by former head coach Greg Schiano and now Kyle Flood, has gone 5-2 against SU and has earned a postseason berth in six of the last seven years. Meanwhile, the Orange -- formerly led by current Connecticut Huskies head coach Paul Pasqualoni, Greg Robinson and now Doug Marrone -- have collected just ONE winning season and ONE bowl berth.
The fact is, competition between the two Northeast schools has mainly taken place in recruiting and not on the gridiron -- SU fans are still kicking themselves for losing running back Ray Rice.
From the day Marrone, a native of the Bronx, took over at SU it was made clear the plan to turn the program around was to implement the same recruiting strategy Schiano used to turn Rutgers around -- target tri-state area prospects.
Just like Schiano's strategy, the Orange believed if it could use Marrone, who speaks in a strong New York dialect, to persuade those players to come to Syracuse then the Northeast would be won and the program's talent level would be turned around.
To do this, the SU athletic department, led by Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross, implemented a public relations plan to make Syracuse "New York's College Team." For years now that has rubbed Rutgers, and other schools located in the NYC and tri-state areas, the wrong way (and rightfully so).
Though here have been articles and opinions shared about this issue, no article may have expressed a dislike for SU or Marrone more than this post by the SB Nation blog On The Banks, which went full-attack mode on the SU head coach Wednesday morning:
On that last point, not only has Marrone followed Schiano's script to the letter, he's gone way past it. It's one thing to obsess about details leaking out of practice and going above and beyond the call of duty to plug any possible leak. Lord knows Schiano was a stickler for that. Have a good laugh about Greg's tussles with scouts all you want, but he never addressed a group of boosters and alumni with the claim that another program was conspiring to negatively recruit against Rutgers. He never muzzled reporters either, with Marrone infamously being alleged to have forced the Syracuse Post-Standard to reassign a long-time Syracuse football beat writer.
As a beat blogger (like what I did there?) for SB Nation New York, who covers the Syracuse football program on a personal basis, I am not going to attack On The Banks for expressing its opinion. That's why we all love the SB Nation community because we're allowed to vent from a fan's perspective.
I will, however, clear up some inaccuracies about the piece (without diving into the whole Marrone forcing the Post-Standard to fire a long-time beat writer because, well, that's just rumor).
First, I will admit the clock on Marrone is ticking, as the headline on the front page of On The Banks claims. Those who follow SU already are aware of the situation, though it isn't as dire as the piece makes it sound.
Yes, Marrone hasn't won much since his arrival, but SU has improved (from a very bad situation) and popular belief is Syracuse -- unless it finishes 3-9 this year -- is close to signing him to a long-term contract and is fully committed to him. The same can't be said for the coaching staff.
Second, Marrone's apparent Czar-like ability to lock down practices (like he did during Spring ball) or not report injuries (we all dislike the "upper-body" or "lower-body" injury reports) is about the only Czar-like thing he's done during his tenure. In fact, some would argue that this season Marrone has been more Czar-like than any other time. However, he's also been a lot more honest about how (not-so) good his football team is.
His 20-minue post game press conference after Syracuse's loss to the USC Trojans at MetLife Stadium earlier this season was something I've never seen before from a football coach. Despite losing, Marrone talked about player injuries, gave his truly honest opinion on his team's performance, his game plan and game-management situations. Stuff a majority of coaches rarely talk about -- well, except maybe Kyle Flood.
Finally, to claim Marrone has an, "unwillingness to be accountable for his program's continued mediocrity," is (I'm sorry) laughable. For those who may not follow this team on a regular basis, Marrone's OVER willingness to talk about how bad a job he's doing has now become a running joke among fans and local media members.
If I had a dollar for every time Marrone said (in these exact words), "I've got to do a better job of preparing my team," I wouldn't need to work a second or third job to continue covering this team. I cite these examples (here, here and here) from my Twitter account that Marrone needs to tone down the, "it's my bad," shtick.
In fact, Marrone's OVER willingness to blame himself could soon be the main reason he's on the hot seat -- because God forbid he ever calls out a player for fumbling or thrown an interception inside an opponent's 10-yard line; or committing a personal-foul penalty after stopping an opponent on a critical third-down play; or just doing something mind-bogglingly stupid.
I can understand the frustrations Rutgers fans may have surrounding Marrone and SU for basically stealing Schiano's and Rutgers' strategy for building a solid football program. I can understand that Syracuse calling itself, "New York's College Team," is annoying considering it is about 250 miles away.
But to write a piece that compares Marrone to Joseph Stalin or Joseph McCarthy is a bit harsh and completely inaccurate. Yet, I am all for it if it spices up the 43rd meeting between these two schools that should have had a rivalry much before this.