Syracuse hires alum Marrone to resurrect program

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Greg Robinson learned to bleed Orange. New Syracuse coach Doug Marrone already has that part down.

"When I went into coaching, I always prepared myself for this," the Bronx-born Marrone said Friday after being hired to replace Robinson as football coach. "This has been the job I have always wanted."

The offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints since 2006, Marrone is returning to the school where he played to try to resurrect a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2001. Robinson was fired in November after going 10-37 in four seasons.

"Not a lot of times in your life can you actually accomplish your dream," said Marrone, a three-year letterman at Syracuse under former coach Dick MacPherson in the mid-1980s. "Today is the greatest day of my life. This is my school and these are my people. You're going to be proud, and we're going to win football games."

Terms of Marrone's contract were not revealed. Robinson had one year left on a deal that paid $1.1 million per season.

Money wasn't on Marrone's mind as he contemplated working two jobs for a while.

"We need everyone to believe," he said. "We need the alumni, we need the fans. I love the people here."

Marrone won't coach with the Saints for the final two games of the regular season, head coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Saturday.

The 44-year-old Marrone was selected by a football search committee that included former Syracuse players Tim Green, Art Monk, Don McPherson and Floyd Little, as well as MacPherson.

Athletic director Daryl Gross interviewed East Carolina coach Skip Holtz earlier in the week, but Holtz issued a statement through his athletic department on Thursday that he had withdrawn his name from consideration.

"We feel at the end of the day we got the best guy," Gross said. "He brings hope to our football program, brings hope to our student-athletes. He's got a group of kids that are just so hungry to win. It's time to rally around. He's going to be here a long time."

Like Robinson, this will be Marrone's first stint as a head coach. It doesn't figure to be a cakewalk. Robinson's tenure featured the only two 10-loss seasons in school history, too many of them by lopsided scores.

The team's poor performance under Robinson, who had three offensive coordinators in his four seasons, hurt the school financially. In 21 homes games over his first three seasons, more than 260,000 seats were not sold, average attendance fell to a 21-year low in 2007, and attendance numbers again were abysmal in 2008.

"For me to sit here and say that Doug Marrone is the right guy is what I would love to say, but I can't say that because I don't know at this point if Doug is the right guy for Syracuse football," said Green, a close friend of Marrone's in college. "This is a daunting task that he's going to face. It's one of the most difficult things in the world of sports, to take a college football program that's down and resurrect it."

Marrone joins basketball coach Jim Boeheim and lacrosse coach John Desko as Syracuse alumni who returned to work at their alma mater. Of course, Boeheim and Desko have won national championships.

"We are not in a rebuilding process. We are in the process of rejuvenating this program," Marrone said as several players listened intently. "I don't have any options. I cannot fail. I cannot fail. My option is only to win, and that's what I'm going to do."

Marrone began his coaching career as an assistant at Cortland State, just south of Syracuse, and coached at Coast Guard, Northeastern, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Tennessee. He was a New York Jets assistant for three years before joining the Saints.

Marrone played for the Miami Dolphins in 1987 and the Saints in 1989, and was with the London Monarchs of the World league in 1991.

Under Marrone's guidance, the Saints have become one of the NFL's most explosive and consistent offenses. New Orleans set an NFL record with 440 completions in 2007 and also set team highs for passing first downs (222), attempts (652), touchdown passes (28) and completion percentage (67.5), also allowing the fewest sacks in the league with 16.

That Marrone has been out of the college ranks for several years doesn't figure to inhibit him at Syracuse.

"I knew someone would say, 'He doesn't have the recruiting ties.' Well, I kept those recruiting ties," said Marrone, whose interview presentation included three binders that he assembled and tailored specifically for the Syracuse job. "I know what we need to win. I've been setting this plan for a long time."

Marrone said he would evaluate the current coaching staff before naming his assistants. Dan Conley, a star at Syracuse for Paul Pasqualoini in the 1990s, just completed his first season as linebackers coach and would appear to be a perfect fit for the new regime.