Syracuse's win over USF on Saturday was rather telling: it speaks highly of Doug Marrone that the Orange are in a position to win conference games in only his second year. Rutgers went through two miserable rebuilding years under Greg Schiano before they started to show any progress.
That got me thinking though. Even taking into account Syracuse's massive roster turnover under Marrone, is it possible that Greg Robinson did not leave the roster in complete shambles? Robinson's .213 career winning percentage bests Terry Shea's .218 as the worst in Big East history. Robinson took over for a fine (if declining) coach in Paul Pasqualoni, while Shea took a program that was mediocre under Dick Anderson and Doug Graber and drove it off a cliff.
The difference could just be that Shea had one additional season as head coach, but there the evidence is mixed about who was worse. Rutgers and Temple were at the bottom of the conference food chain during the mid-to-late nineties, with BC and Pitt not very good, West Virginia average, and the trio of Miami, VT, and Syracuse consistently battling it out at the top. The Big East did not receive nearly as much credit as it deserved during the mid-2000s, but it was not nearly the league that it had been a decade prior. If you look at Shea's and Robinson's point differentials, Shea fares far worse, indicating far more lopsided blowouts. Were those teams beaten so up so badly because they were playing decent competition, or would they have just been awful in any decade of conference?
Syracuse's point differential under Marrone last year was a lot better than what we saw in Schiano's first season. I can think of three possible conclusions. The difference is partially attributable to not having to play Miami and Virginia Tech, Marrone was a better coach in 2009 than Schiano was in 2001, or that Syracuse did not quite fall to the depths under Robinson that Rutgers had a decade earlier. This should be interesting to watch* going forward. After all, who would have ever thought that GRob would end up counting on his immediate successor to help (ever so slightly) revamp his reputation?
*By watch, I of course mean Rutgers fans will observe in incredulity as the Syracuse side continues their endless, one-sided barrage of insults and obsession while at the same time Doug Marrone keeps trying to follow Greg Schiano's rebuilding script to a tee.