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The Paranoid Style in Big East football

Otto Greule Jr - Getty Images

Doug Marrone is the last of his kind. As loathe as Syracuse fans are to admit it, Marrone pretty much copied Greg Schiano's script to the letter.

  • Both talked up the idea of using New York City as a promotional tool. Rutgers is literally the only major college football program that plays in the NYC market and is located an hour outside the city, and draws the sport's top television ratings in the market. On the other hand, Syracuse felt the need to buy a bunch of advertisements on taxis and at Yankee Stadium.
  • Both were prone to getting sanctimonious about keeping "local" players home, while at the same time importing recruits en masse from Florida in response to striking out with their first options.
  • Most importantly, both also happen to be being gigantic, overbearing, megalomaniacal control freaks. Now that Coach Schiano has absconded to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Doug Marrone now stands alone in the Big East conference as a throw back to the days where coaches were heavy-handed dictators as opposed to today's modern CEO-types. Overbearing control is not forms of discipline; it's a common motivational tool.

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.

Keep in mind that the P-S is so in the tank for Syracuse athletics that they sat on the Bernie Fine story for years, and when Marrone first arrived on campus, he and his staff giddily fed the paper a boatload of recruiting information. Whether it was inadvertently reporting on innocuous practice details, or producing a modicum of measured criticism after Syracuse struggled in Marrone's first season, Doug had about as much tolerance for the press as he had for the dozens of players summarily dismissed from the program after he took the reins. Love Schiano or hate him, you never saw this kind of public feud with the press in Piscataway even when practice details were on full lockdown. You never saw massive roster turnover on an unprecedented scale. When Greg Schiano lost games, and he probably underachieved a fair bit given his roster talent over the past few years, he at least took the high road with the public. The buck stopped with him.

The topic of this post references the classic essay of American political science, noting the tendency of groups and individuals like the John Birch Society and Joseph McCarthy to see reds around every corner, failing to draw a crucial distinction between Joseph Stalin and your average coffee house denizen. Doug Marrone's unwillingness to be accountable for his program's continued mediocrity (which is not to say it's all his fault, just that being the scapegoat is essentially part of the job description of a head coach) a sign of immaturity and severe character flaws. Furthermore, his repeated tendency to attribute his program's failures onto others not only indicates vindictive pettiness and being small, it has repeatedly veered dangerously close to the level of paranoia and conspiracy theories that, when moving beyond a fanbase, are likely a leading indicator of professional failure.

When every possible threat must be stamped out and eliminated, that doesn't leave much room left for finding common ground. Beyond the losing, beyond the issues with location and demographics, beyond play calling (which is admittedly terrible on offense) and poor recruiting, that more than anything is why the Orange enter the week 2-3. They're not UConn-level bad; they have some talent. Just not a lot of depth, question marks at MLB and CB, along with limited athleticism and big play potential. After a while, if a coach does not prove his mettle and start hitting that next level (usually by year three or so), the charges start tuning you out. It's hard to say whether that is happening yet. Marrone's seat is getting a little warmer with every loss and dip in fan support, but that's mostly due to unrealistic preseason expectations. He will not be fired barring a terrible collapse; four of five wins likely signals a scorching seat in 2013 though.

Eventually, there comes a point where there's no fall guy left but the head honcho in charge. If the whispers are starting, then it is by no means easy to stuff that djinn back into the bottle. How fitting would it be to have spent so much time in relentless, unending search for external saboteurs, when the true enemy was really within all along? That's how paranoiacs usually go, drunk on their own hubris and bursting at the seams. It's true, there really is an insidious force conspiring and scheming to the sole end of keeping Syracuse football down. As to the culprits though, we have some bad news there...