Syracuse athletic director Dr. Daryl Gross said Monday that the Orange football team has yet to show the "obvious progress" necessary for Greg Robinson to remain as football coach beyond this season.
"It isn't working out," Gross said of Robinson. "It's very disappointing He has some work to do out in front of him."
The Orange are 1-3 this season as they prepare for their Big East Conference opener Saturday at home against Pittsburgh. Robinson, in his fourth season at Syracuse, has an overall record of 8-31. His scoring offense (14.9-point average) is the third worst among FBS programs since 2005.
"He isn't going to do anything right now," Robinson, referring to Gross, said Monday night. "I know that. But let me tell you something, we just need to win. We're capable of winning. People don't know it."
Syracuse has a Big East record of 2-22 in the past three seasons. The Orange ended a seven-game losing streak Saturday with a 30-21 defeat of Northeastern, an FCS school.
But Robinson, whose sunny personality seems blindingly bright amid his gloomy fan base, believes the Orange will win soon.
"When it happens, it doesn't gradually happen," Robinson said of success. "It explodes. We're all battling our ass off. I'm really excited about it."
Gross, who came to Syracuse from the USC athletic department in December 2004, has been stung by recent coast-to-coast criticism, including on ESPN's "College GameDay," of the program's decline under his watch. He made an unsolicited phone call to ESPN.com to defend himself, citing the university's success in nonrevenue sports, ranging from the 2008 NCAA men's lacrosse championship to an Orange field hockey program currently ranked third in the nation.
"We got so many good things going on here," Gross said. "The 800-pound gorilla is football. You and I both know we've been very fair to Coach Robinson. Everyone wanted the guy's head last year. I said I didn't want Syracuse to become one of those three-years-and-out schools. I said, 'Let's calm down and [if needed] we'll get the first pick of the draft [of coaching candidates] next year.' That's where we are."
Gross laughed off speculation that he will hire Lane Kiffin, the Raiders coach rumored to be on his way out in Oakland. The two of them worked together at USC.
Robinson said he is not bitter about such circumstances and that he had no complaints about Gross' reaction to the football team's slow start.
"He's tried to hang in there," Robinson said of Gross. "He gets a lot of crap. I understand it. You know what? It [Syracuse football] ain't as bad as people think. He's feeling pressure He's got a political world to live in. My world is not that way."
Robinson said his players were not being affected by the off-field distractions.
"I give our football team a lot of credit," Robinson said. "They're tough-minded. I'm not here to worry about that. I can't control that. It's not so much controlling my fate. I want to win for our team."
"We really don't listen to everything that everybody else has to say," quarterback Cam Dantley said. "We know ourselves what type of coach he is, what type of person he is and how he helps us on and off the field. Whatever anybody else has to say, we really don't pay attention to it. The most important thing to him is that he knows that we care."
On Sept. 12, "The Express", a film about the late Ernie Davis, the Orange running back who in 1961 became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, premiered in Syracuse. The following day, Syracuse's former archrival, Penn State, defeated the Orange 55-13 at the Carrier Dome.
What started out as a celebration of the university's rich tradition became a reminder of how far the team has fallen. Robinson's time to lead the Orange out of the hole appears to be growing short.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.