The Syracuse Orange's schedule for 2012 is not going to be easy but will feature the Orange on national television more than a few times, with the marquee game being played against the USC Trojans (a presumed No. 1 or 2 in many polls) at Metlife Stadium in the Medowlands.
Syracuse is joining the trend of hosting a football "event" as a home game off campus. Virginia Tech and Georgia are the most recent examples of teams to set the tone.
The Orange's partnership with the Medowlands extends through at least the 2016 season, with Penn State and Notre Dame to "visit" the Orange and the potential for even more through at least 2019.
The move has made some unhappy with the Syracuse Athletic Department, and the most recent and perhaps vocal critic was the Syracuse Post Standard. Syracuse's premier newspaper took aim at Doctor Daryl Gross in their editorial section this week, saying that the schedule hurt the loyal local fans of Central New York.
The article sparked both support and defense of the Orange athletic department from many prominent members of the Syracuse sports media community. Among the most accurate and prominent is radio host and online contributor Brent Axe.
Blogger Sean Keeley of SB Nation took a more moderate stance of support, but the bottom line is that this debate has only further sparked the debate taking place over the direction of Syracuse Athletics under Gross.
Now in his eighth year at the helm of Syracuse athletics, Doctor Gross is in charge of revitalizing a football program that used to be on par with its legendary basketball team. The Greg Robinson era definitively ended that mantle, and Doctor Gross is trying to climb Everest with a divided team around him.
But he is doing it the right way.
Gross realized that first major issue with Syracuse was its lack of sufficient athletic facilities for football. Thus, Gross has been "aggressively" campaigning for a new football complex.
Back to the Medowlands games—the crux of the debate but the ultimate reason Gross is handling this correctly. The Orange moved to the ACC for the same exact reason they are scheduling games at Metlife: football revenue.
The ACC has a much better contract with the same company as the Big East (ESPN), and it is only expected to increase with Pitt and Syracuse joining the fray.
This is not the same football climate where Syracuse thrived. Teams don't make money out of sold-out games in 50,000-person domes—they do it by selling out 85.000-plus seated stadiums and playing on national television.
Just look at the SEC for how to build more than just a few successful teams but rather a successful conference. Huge television contract with CBS, huge stadiums on campuses with NFL-caliber facilities lead to huge national profiles, which then lead to recruits to fuel the cycle more.
The game in Metlife brings in three programs with national followings that appeal to television: USC, Notre Dame and Penn State (Penn State alums still support this team, but that's a different conversation).
The Orange get guaranteed time on ESPN or ABC with this game and all the other ones to follow. Doug Marrone can waive the guaranteed option of playing in one of the newest and most modern NFL stadiums on national television to recruits. The subsequent television revenue will help fund new facilities that will entice even more recruits.
I'm sure a Nike Pro-Combat uniform is in the works at some point, seeing that shiny new uniforms also entice recruits. Just don't make them grey, erm, platinum please.
This is the way to make money in today's college game. Big-time college athletic departments make money off of football, and above is the proven formula for making money off of football.
If the Orange faithful want more games at home, first sell out the Dome (something that didn't happen the last time the Orange brought a big-time player into CNY) before even bringing up the argument. Syracuse is in full rebuilding mode and is doing all that it can to keep pace with other programs.
So while this the USC Trojans and Orange are battling in the Medowlands, just remember the end goal of National Prominence and what has to be done to achieve that in today's new college football landscape.