Blum: No. 44 restoration only creates buzz, does little to shift culture of Syracuse football

first_img Published on May 20, 2015 at 1:02 am Scott Shafer kept putting off answering the question that had been asked to him three times.“Is the lack of buzz right now (around Syracuse football) by design?”The final question of the final media opportunity of spring football on March 31 and Shafer denied that one had even been asked.“I’m still not hearing a question,” he said, and then said it again.Shafer, SU’s head coach, had spent an entire spring season trying to instill a sense of positivity around a team coming off a dismal 3-9 campaign, but there lacked the same hard-nosed buzz — the kind where you say you want to put “the fear of God” in your opponents — from when Shafer’s Orange was winning games.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“No I don’t think anyone designs a lack of buzz,” Shafer said, deciding to tackle the reporter’s question. “I think that would be really stupid.”Syracuse is a program that had lost its buzz. It’s not the same team that entered 2014 confidently boasting a plan for a run-and-gun, no-huddle offense. It’s not the same program coming in having won bowl games in three of the past four seasons.But on Tuesday afternoon, they gathered the big wigs of SU Athletics — Jim Boeheim, Daryl Gross and Floyd Little all in attendance — and did the best they could to bring that buzz back.No. 44, for the first time since Nov. 12, 2005, is on the open market. It’s a form of artificial excitement. It wasn’t a good year for Syracuse football on the field. Two touchdowns from a running back all season. An ejection and season-ending injury for the starting quarterback. A combined 30 interceptions and fumbles.Excitement on the field was virtually non-existent. No. 44 is a way to at least drum up excitement off it.“What a great day for Syracuse, Syracuse football and remembering three great players that played here and just what that number 44 means to this program,” Shafer said on Tuesday, minutes before the number was restored. “… It’s about the culture of Syracuse football.”The culture of Syracuse football now, though, is trying to overcome the worst season since 2008. The program right now can’t be compared to the years when the Orange gave the No. 44 to three of the greatest football players in the history of the sport. They can make a show of it, bring the number back and make it feel like old times, but the culture then and the culture now can’t be connected by restoring No. 44.It’s shown by the fact that in 2015, Syracuse won’t have a player, based upon on-field performance, even worth consideration for the number. George Morris and Devante McFarlane are serviceable running backs that have put the time and work in to become prominent parts of Syracuse’s rotation. But SU can’t and won’t restore the number for players that combined for fewer than 300 rushing yards last season.In all likelihood, the number will be worn again in 2016, with the arrival of four-star commit Robert Washington. He’s the one that the restore movement among SU fans has centered around and the one that could be tasked with ushering in a new era of the Syracuse ground game.But he won’t be here until 2016. And Syracuse was in need of something to rally around now.“If that’s the way we can attract the kind of player that can put our program back on track,” Little said of restoring the number, “Why shouldn’t we?”No. 44 was a hand that Syracuse had in its back pocket. Getting players through generated buzz, it’s what you do when most else has failed.Syracuse gift-wrapped Tuesday like a PR event. And it was that as Pete Sala, Gross, Little and Shafer all spoke. But then the big announcement exploded into a hoopla of celebration for Syracuse football fans everywhere.There was the 30-minute wait to break the biggest news before breaking ground on the No. 44 Plaza. It’s the kind of moment where everyone’s texting each other. The kind that puts a smile on even the most cynical fan’s face.It’s not to say that it wasn’t the right move. You can’t say something is wrong if it makes people excited. But it’s a publicity stunt that generates buzz, and as Shafer so smartly and simply stated, not generating that buzz would be stupid. The SU coaching staff can speak about a changed offensive identity or the improvement of players that will need to play key roles. But nothing creates that buzz like something tangible. No. 44 being back is tangible.But it doesn’t change the culture of Syracuse football. It’s just buzz until they couple the announcement with a winning season in 2015.Sam Blum is the sports editor for The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @SamBlum3. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *