Syracuse University’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) was recently created through a merger of the Office of Institutional Research and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment. The streamlined operation, located at 400 Ostrom Avenue, serves all members…
‘We’re About to Go Shock the Country’: Get to Know New Head Football Coach Fran Brown
The Orange seeds that inspired Fran Brown to become the 31st head coach in the proud history of the Syracuse University football team were planted when Brown watched his first-ever in-person college football game as a ninth grader.
Brown and his peers from Camden, New Jersey, made the 95-mile trek to Meadowlands Stadium to watch local star Donovin Darius ’98, future Pro Football Hall of Famer Donovan McNabb ’98 and the 17th-ranked Orange take on the 24th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the Kickoff Classic on Aug. 26, 1997.
On Monday morning, as Brown was introduced as the newest head coach, he harkened back to vivid memories of a dominant, 34-0 trouncing of Wisconsin by Syracuse as the blueprint for where he wants to take this program.
“Why Syracuse? That [game] is my vision of Syracuse. We are going to bust our butt to get back to that way. To bring back the great tradition of football that was here before me, before my era,” Brown told a packed audience of media members, former Orange football student-athletes and supporters of the program in the Ferguson Football Auditorium in the George R. Iocolano and William C. Petty Football Wing at the John A. Lally Athletics Complex.
Wanting to return the Orange to a time when the program was consistently ranked in the Top 25 under former head coach Paul Pasqualoni (107-59-1 record in 14 seasons) and offensive coordinator George DeLeone (who Brown worked with at both Temple University and Baylor University), Brown had a message for the football alumni.
“I need your presence. I need those guys to see the history that was before them. I need them to want to be able to mimic what happened before them,” Brown said. “The money and all those things will come when the time is right. I want your guys’ presence. I want your heart. Because you’re going to get my heart. You’re going to get every bit of me that you can get for the entire time I’m here.”
Vowing that current and prospective student-athletes will follow his DART method—being detailed, accountable, relentless and tough in their pursuit of greatness on the football field, in the classroom and in the community—Brown said he’s “all-in on Syracuse University.”
“I am competitive. I need to win at everything. You can’t chew gum faster than me. I’m going to win at everything and we’re about to go shock the country,” Brown said.
Get to know Brown, the nation’s top college football recruiter and a member of the 2022 College Football National Championship coaching staff with the University of Georgia.
What Can Brown Do for Orange?
Brown played a critical role in attracting top talent to Georgia, and his deep ties to New Jersey and the Northeast will allow him immediate recruiting success for the Orange.
“I was always able to go out and recruit and get the best players, but it wasn’t because I was saying or selling all this stuff. It was because of the relationships. It was me continuously talking to them about life, helping young men become closer to the man above [God],” Brown said. “I recruit just being genuine. I’m telling the kids the truth. I’m telling all the kids now, ‘The reason you should come to Syracuse is, because [if] you’re coming here, you’re going to be successful for the rest of your life.”
Brown said he plans on “taking care of our backyard, from Canada to the DMV [Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virgina].”
“That’s why I got the job [because of my recruiting]. We all understand that. I’m not going to stop that. Why would you stop doing what you’re good at?” Brown said.
Diamonds in the Rough
Brown is a self-made man who came from humble beginnings. His mother gave birth to Brown when she was just 13 years old, and by the time she was 21, there were four boys running around the house. Football became an outlet for Brown to escape life’s difficulties, and he excelled on the gridiron as Camden High School’s quarterback.
After spending one year playing football for Hudson Valley Community College, Brown earned an associate’s degree and caught the eye of Matt Rhule, future head coach of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers who was serving as Western Carolina University’s assistant head coach. Rhule recruited Brown to play for Western Carolina, where he thrived at cornerback, earning first-team All-Southern Conference honors and serving as team captain en route to a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
As Brown was talking with Kent Syverud, Syracuse University’s Chancellor and president, Syverud asked him an innocent question:
“I know you can recruit, that’s great, but what about the diamonds in the rough? What about those guys that people overlook? What are you going to do about them?” Brown recalled. “I said ‘How am I going to forget about me?’ I can’t forget about me. I was one [a diamond in the rough]. I was the guy that went to school, didn’t have all the stuff everybody else had. I had an uncle, Charles Brown, he told me ‘Don’t ever, ever, ever allow your situations to dictate your outcome. You make the best of it. You dominate, you get up, and you walk every single day with the next foot forward.’ And I’ve always busted my butt.”
Brown’s extensive coaching resume includes stops at Rutgers University (2020-21), Temple University (2011-16, 2019), Baylor University (2017-18) and Paul VI High School (2010). He has worked with some of the top coaches in the country, including Rhule at the University of Nebraska and Georgia’s Kirby Smart. Both offer high praise for Brown.
Brown made a lasting impression on Rhule, who first recruited Brown to play at Western Carolina and then connected Brown with then-Temple University coach Steve Addazio, an introduction that helped Brown land his first college coaching job in 2011. After Rhule took over the Temple program in 2013, he tapped Brown as one of his full-time assistant coaches.
It’s one of the many reasons why forming lifelong relationships with his coaches and his prospective student-athletes really matters to Brown, and why Brown continues to keep in touch with the families of his recruits long after they’ve committed to join him.
“I don’t really have a recruiting pitch. I just ask recruits ‘Do you want to be successful? Do you want to become a man? Do you want to be a good father? Do you want to be a good husband?’ When you’re asking those questions, then it becomes authentic,” Brown said. “I’m building genuine relationships. I’m going to know your grandma, I’m going to know your aunt. I’m going to know your cousin. I’m going to make sure that I’m detailed with everything and write it down. For me to have students trusting me, I need to understand and know them.”
Burdens of Being a Black Head Coach
There are 133 Division I institutions playing football, and only 14 of those programs (10.5%) have Black head coaches. Brown recognizes the special opportunity in front of him and realizes there will be immense pressure on him to succeed. If he’s successful, he knows more doors will open for other aspiring Black head coaches.
“Do I know that there’s a little more on me because I am a Black man? Yeah, and I’m cool with that. I’m excited about that because I’m going to open the door for everybody. I’m going to do this the right way because it’s bigger than me. There’s a lot of people that came before me that didn’t get this opportunity, and there’s going to be a lot that come after me that will be because of how I do here at Syracuse,” Brown said.