Q&A: Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, Part I

I had a chance to catch up with new Syracuse coach Scott Shafer shortly after he was introduced. The interview was so good, I have decided to split it into two parts.

In this first part, Shafer talks about his impressive debut during his news conference, and how his past experiences shaped him. Tune back Tuesday to see how he plans on making his own mark on the program.

You really impressed many people during your introductory news conference Friday. Did you know what you wanted to say or did you improvise your remarks?

SS: I knew what I wanted to accomplish and I had a goal. To be honest with you, I try not to over script anything because then I don’t think it’s real. I just wanted it to be from the heart, but I wanted to be able to stay on task so I didn’t get too emotional, having your family there, first job. I had a hard time writing anything down because I was tired, and we had a lot of taxing things going on in the office. So I said, well I’ll just get up early (Friday) morning, I’ll be fresh, and get my mind a chance to think about things. I got up real early, me and my dog got up at 3:30, went for a walk, put the coffee on early, sat down, thought about the things some really great people gave me advice on and tried to incorporate some of those things. My whole goal was to try to be honest and be myself.

This is your first head coaching job. Had you gotten close to any other head coaching jobs in your past?

SS: I’ve had fleeting moments of thinking I had some shots at some things, but you’ve got to be in the right place and the right time. Some of those opportunities I had to sidestep or pull out of because I had a better opportunity to move up and be a coordinator at a bigger institution. There was a part of me that said I wanted to conquer that mountain first and see if I could do a really good job at some of the bigger schools as a defensive coordinator. That’s why I’m indebted to Doug for hiring me after the experience I had a Michigan. He gave me another shot to right the ship in my mind. I’m so pleased to coach these kids here and work for Coach (Doug) Marrone and have an opportunity to do that and to kind of close that chapter out.

You mentioned Michigan. It obviously didn’t work out for anybody there, but did you feel after your one season there under Rich Rodriguez in 2008, your career may have been set back at all?

SS: I did. I felt no different than a player feels after he walks off the field and he was defeated. There were a lot of thoughts that went through my head, who am I? Where am I? What mistakes did I make? What things were out of my control and how can I ensure that I’ll be in a situation where I have more control in a particular environment? It came down to choosing the man more than the school for the next job. I was lucky to have some good opportunities, but my philosophical point of views were right in line with Coach Marrone’s. Our No. 1 priority being we really wanted to develop the players as people as well as football players. That’s really why I had a motivation to come here. I was really lucky he offered me the job.

How did that experience at Michigan impact you or motivate you once you got to Syracuse?

SS: The biggest thing was you want to try and align yourself with people that are like you and have the same deep-rooted philosophies, same passions and that sort of thing. The second thing was you become a lot more wise after you make mistakes, whether they’re decisions or daily mistakes that impact us as people. A little bit wiser after getting scarred a little bit. The one thing I did realize out of that situation at Michigan was just how lucky I was throughout the course of my career up until that point to work with genuinely great people that had the same values that I had. That’s not to say that the staff at Michigan didn’t have those passions and values. We just looked at them from a different point of view. I was kind of the oil in the water. And those guys are doing well and I wish them all well, and they’re good people. Just maybe a different time, a different place would have been better. So wisdom is the biggest thing I carry from that job.