Construction has finally begun on the new state-of-the-art practice facility for the Syracuse Orange. As the process goes on through the summer and likely into the upcoming football season, the new building may seem like an appropriate metaphor for the continued rebuilding of the Syracuse football program.
After their Texas Bowl victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, following a third place finish in the ACC Atlantic division in their first season in the conference, it is clear that the Orange have finally clawed their way out of the college football doldrums. Their ascent began under former head coach Doug Marrone, who dragged Syracuse’s program back from the lowest point in its history and delivered two Pinstripe Bowl victories in his final three seasons. Marrone is gone now, after taking the same job with the Buffalo Bills, but he revitalized Syracuse’s football program enough to make them a viable candidate in the ACC’s expansion plans.
Now the rebuilding goes on, supervised by the drill-sergeant-like Scott Shafer, who took over just in time to guide the Orange through their inaugural season in the ACC. The construction of the new indoor facility, while an appropriate metaphor for the program’s continued growth, will also provide very real aid to the Orange as they try to compete for ACC Championships. As the athletics department said in their press release regarding the new facility, on Cuse.com:
“The state-of-the-art, $17 million planned center will continue to move Syracuse Athletics forward as New York’s College Team, providing essential and transformational amenities needed to compete for championships in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The 87,000 square foot building will provide the football program with an innovative and modern practice environment, enhance recruiting efforts, and help develop the best and brightest student-athletes from across the nation.”
In the arms race of college football, these kinds of facilities are increasingly important. Keeping up with escalation is one thing, but for the Orange, the facility may provide more substantive use than what other programs get from their practice facilities. While Syracuse has the Carrier Dome to practice in, they share the building with other programs, including the basketball team. And during spring practice, outdoor fields often have to be cleared of snow before the team can use them.
But even more importantly, the facility could be a boon to Shafer’s recruiting effort. Outdoor practices, on fields still stiff from the winter cold, have to be a tough sell to Florida recruits. But the Orange are off to their best start recruiting in years, following the announcement that the new facility would be built. Coach Shafer has secured eight verbal commitments so far, five of which are from Florida athletes. Their current class is ranked 36th in the country, according to 247 Sports. The sudden improvement over the recent history is undoubtedly thanks, in part, to the practice facility plans. The Orange also seem ready to take a step forward on the field this season, with the majority of their starting lineup from a year ago returning.
Coach Shafer may be building something special in Syracuse and, while the facility be a tremendous asset going forward, it will only be a part of the foundation. The finished product will be the team that Shafer puts out on the field, as he and the Orange aim to become contenders in the ACC.