Pasqualoni will change focus to offense

Updated: December 12, 2003, 12:47 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse athletics director Jake Crouthamel said Friday that football coach Paul Pasqualoni will keep his job, and that no assistant coaches will be dismissed.

"Change is necessary, yes, but not wholesale change. [It's] more along the lines of adjustments to the way we do things," Crouthamel said in a news conference. "We don't need to lay a new foundation. We already have a solid foundation and a strong football tradition from which to draw."

While a source told ESPN.com Thursday night that Crouthamel would retain Pasqualoni, the source had said it was uncertain whether Pasqualoni would be able to keep his staff intact.

Crouthamel said the most significant adjustment will be that Pasqualoni will be responsible for making game-day decisions on offense. During the past two years Pasqualoni has focused on defense.

Pasqualoni, who had been out recruiting all this week, attended the news conference. When it was announced that he would remain as coach, staff and players in attendance applauded.

"We are determined here to examine every aspect of our program and improve," Pasqualoni said.

Syracuse barely avoided its second straight losing season by defeating a weak Notre Dame team 38-12 in its last game of the season on Dec. 6. The win left Syracuse at 6-6, but tied for next to last in the Big East at 2-5 and without a bowl bid for the third time in four seasons.

In 13 years as the school's 26th head coach, Pasqualoni, 54, a 1972 graduate of Penn State, has posted an overall record of 101-53-1, including a 58-31 conference record. He is 6-2 in bowl games. His 100 wins rank second all-time at Syracuse, behind only Ben Schwartzwalder's 153.

Friday's move came a little over a year after Crouthamel gave Pasqualoni a first public vote of confidence. Crouthamel called the team's 4-8 record in 2002, its first losing season since 1986, an "anomaly."

In doing so, Crouthamel also spelled out his expectations for the football team. Those expectations included: finishing at least in the top three in the Big East Conference and among the Top 25 teams nationally; frequent bowl participation, including the BCS; and a high graduation rate.

When former star quarterback Donovan McNabb was leading the way, Syracuse finished ranked four straight years, played in four bowl games, and won or shared the Big East title three straight years.

Since McNabb graduated in 1998, the Orangemen have finished with losing records in the league three times and played in only two bowl games.

Syracuse also is 17-18 in the Big East since the McNabb era ended and has been embarrassed 62-0 and 51-7 by Virginia Tech, and 59-0 and 49-7 by Miami. Syracuse is the only team to lose twice to Rutgers and lost to Temple last year, which snapped a 16-game winning streak over the Owls.

The losses have led to a decrease in fan interest. Attendance in the Carrier Dome, which seats 49,262, dropped from an average of 47,898 in 1998 to 43,572 last season and to 41,167 this season. But the university bases its attendance figures on tickets sold not on the turnstile count, and the actual number of fans coming to games has declined even more dramatically.

This season, Syracuse played Notre Dame for the first time in 40 years, and tickets were still available the week of the game, the season finale.

Despite the tireless work ethic of Pasqualoni and his staff, Syracuse also has been unable to recruit many blue-chip players, especially at quarterback, since McNabb left.

If not for the emergence of defensive end Dwight Freeney in 2001, Pasqualoni's job might have been in jeopardy sooner. With Freeney wreaking havoc on offenses, the Orangemen went 10-3 overall and 6-1 in the Big East, beat Kansas State in the Insight.com Bowl, and finished ranked No. 14.

Although Pasqualoni did guide the Orangemen to big victories over Florida, Colorado, Ohio State and Wisconsin and was 10-2 in each of his first two seasons (1991-92), perhaps his greatest success has come in the classroom. During his tenure, Syracuse has consistently ranked among the nation's leaders in graduation rates, reaching the pinnacle in 2000 with 100 percent.

In 18 seasons as a head coach, which include five years at Division III Western Connecticut, Pasqualoni is 135-70-1, a .668 winning percentage. He joined the Syracuse staff as an assistant in 1987 under Dick MacPherson.

Pasqualoni's staff includes associate head coach/offensive coordinator George DeLeone, defensive coordinator Chris Rippon, and assistants Jerry Azzinaro (defensive line), Steve Bush (quarterbacks), Steve Dunlap (linebackers), Dennis Goldman (wide receivers), David Walker (running backs), Chris White (tight ends and special teams), and R. Todd Littlejohn (cornerbacks).

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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