Longtime assistant trades shades of orange

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A year to the day after he resigned as
defensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs, Greg Robinson was
hired as coach at Syracuse, his first head coaching job in a career
spanning three decades.

"It has been a long time coming," Robinson said Tuesday at a
news conference a little more than an hour after arriving on
campus. "It's funny how your blessings come, but I am really glad
that the opportunity is coming now in my career. I've been waiting
30 years for this. It's been a long, hard road."

Robinson, 53, spent 15 years in the college ranks before jumping
to the NFL for 14 years, including stints as defensive coordinator
with Kansas City and Denver. He also was an assistant with the New York Jets from 1990-94 and last season returned to college as
co-defensive coordinator for the Texas Longhorns.

Robinson succeeds Paul Pasqualoni, who was fired Dec. 29 by new
athletic director Daryl Gross. The firing came eight days after
Syracuse lost to Georgia Tech 51-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Gross, who took over in early December for the retiring Jake
Crouthamel, said he wanted a defensive-minded coach, and Robinson
has made an impact more than once. His Kansas City defense in 2003
produced 36 sacks, 25 interceptions and forced 37 turnovers, giving
the Chiefs a plus-19 turnover margin, tops in the NFL.

But in the first round of the playoffs, Peyton Manning picked
apart that defense for 304 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-31
victory that put the Indianapolis Colts into the AFC title game and
prompted Robinson to resign.

He landed in Texas, and the Longhorns also excelled, going 11-1
and beating Michigan in the Rose Bowl. During the regular season,
the Texas defense allowed 102 fewer points than it gave up in 12
games the previous year and did not allow a third-quarter touchdown
until Michigan scored in the Rose Bowl.

"We didn't want someone that was just going to be competitive
with the rest of the coaches in the Big East. We wanted someone
special," said Gross, who declined to reveal terms of the
contract. "This is going to be a lot of fun, and we're going to
have a blast doing this together."

In 14 seasons at Syracuse, Pasqualoni was 107-59-1 and 6-3 in
bowl games, but the Orange struggled the past three years, going
4-8 in 2002 and 6-6 in each of the last two seasons after finishing
10-3 and ranked 14th in the nation in 2001.

Two of Pasqualoni's longtime assistants -- George DeLeone and
David Walker -- already have left for other jobs, but Robinson said
he would begin interviewing the remaining coaches on Wednesday and
was hopeful he could retain some continuity in the program.

Robinson, who inherits a team with 15 returning starters, met
briefly with some of the players. Two of them -- tailback Damien Rhodes and defensive back Anthony Smith -- watched the news
conference from the back of the room and said they walked away with
a positive feeling. And the giant Super Bowl ring Robinson was
wearing on his right hand -- one of two he won with the Broncos --
certainly made a lasting impression.

"That's a pretty big ring," said Smith, who had been disillusioned by Pasqualoni's firing. "I'm ready to play for him."

"I am looking forward to getting this thing going," said
Rhodes, who also will be a senior. "He obviously knows what he is
doing. He has the track record to prove that."

Pasqualoni remains in Syracuse and is exploring opportunities as
an assistant in the NFL. Robinson said he would consult with him
over the next few days.

"I know what Paul has done and I know what Paul is all about,"
Robinson said. "The program has been in good hands."

The Syracuse job was the last vacant one in Division I-A.