“He makes you understand what you’re playing for,” senior tailback Delone Carter said. “It means that much more to you when you understand the history.”
More importantly, Marrone has preached discipline, accountability, character, and integrity. Be late for something, and your face could end up on a campus TV monitor for all your teammates to see.
“I was late for something and I was up on the TV monitor,” senior linebacker Doug Hogue said. “I never wanted to be on it again. It wasn’t a good thing, but it taught me to be more accountable, more responsible for my actions.”
Marrone also requires players to be clean-cut _ they dress in suit and tie instead of sweats on game day _ and they sing the alma mater before leaving the field, win or lose.
“When you learn the alma mater, I think it gives you a better appreciation for your school,” Lewis said. “After a win, it makes you appreciate the school. After a loss I really think it makes you appreciate the game of football. To go out there and still be able to say, ‘Hey, we didn’t get it done but we’re still going to represent Syracuse in this community regardless.’ That’s powerful.”
Not everyone jumped aboard. More than 20 players, many with eligibility remaining, left the program after Marrone took over.
“I think one of the things Doug came in and did right away was say, ‘This is not going to be easy, this is going to be hard,’” said McPherson, who speaks regularly with Marrone. “And the guys who left are the ones who said, ‘I can’t take it.’
“Whether Doug says this or not, I can say it. They weren’t Division I athletes and they were in a regime that, in my opinion, disrespected them because it didn’t ask them to do the hard work,” McPherson said. “From what I saw from the previous coaching staff, they coddled these kids, there was a lack of discipline right down to the way they dressed. I don’t think you win football games that way and I think you disrespect the kids by doing so.”
Education is paramount for Marrone, who is a living testament _ he didn’t graduate with his class because the NFL beckoned. Encouraged by Syracuse professor Dr. Ronald Cavanagh to finish something he started, Marrone took night classes and went to summer school while he was playing professionally and received his degree in 1991.
“It was something I had to do,” Marrone said. “I knew I was going to need it later on in life.”
He’s still preaching.
“We’ve got to get these kids to class and help them get better academic advising, those are the things he talks about,” said the Brooklyn-born McPherson, who finished second in the Heisman balloting after leading Syracuse to an undefeated season and a national ranking of fourth in 1987. “I truly believe that’s how you get guys to believe in what you’re doing. You love ‘em first and then you teach them football second.”
Marrone has spoken to high-school coaches, business groups and students as he has begun to re-establish the university’s recruiting tentacles in New York state and the Northeast. He’ll be on the road right after the Boston College game, then back home to prepare for the postseason finale.
“We’re bowl-eligible. First time in a while,” McNabb said. “I’m happy for ‘em. We’re looking forward to good things.”