Micah Benson | Art DirectorFootball
Taking center stage: MetLife Stadium games push Syracuse into national spotlight versus top competition
It starts Saturday.
Syracuse (0-1) takes on No. 2 USC (1-0) in New York’s College Classic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The matchup with the Trojans marks the beginning of a long-running series of Syracuse football games at the most expensive stadium in the world.
The deal between Syracuse University and MetLife Stadium, including the game against USC on Saturday and matchups with Notre Dame on Sept. 27, 2014, and Sept. 3, 2016, was announced in August 2009. Since then, Penn State has signed on to play Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in August 2013. And in March 2011, it was announced that the 82,566-capacity stadium will include 10 additional Syracuse football games to be scheduled between 2019 and 2038.
“A lot of preparation goes into that,” said Herman Frazier, Syracuse deputy athletics director. “It’s not easy pulling up your operation from one campus and moving it a few miles away. From that part, it can be a challenge. But I think we’ve dotted our Is and crossed our Ts to make it less of a challenge.”
While Syracuse will gain exposure against the No. 2 team in the country on ABC this Saturday, the game takes away a true home game, and many feel as if it’s a guaranteed loss. In most cases, games against teams like USC wouldn’t happen in the Carrier Dome, so MetLife Stadium serves as the bait to attract high-profile competition.
The venue is home to the New York Giants and New York Jets. The stadium cost $1.6 billion to construct and is one of the largest in the NFL, seating nearly 33,000 more fans than the Dome. It opened April 10, 2010, featuring the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, a men’s college lacrosse tripleheader in which Syracuse defeated Princeton 13-4 in one of the games. MetLife Stadium will also host Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
Behind the lines
Frazier, who handles Syracuse’s football scheduling, has been preparing for the USC game for more than one year. His operation manual, a white binder overflowing with papers and bearing Syracuse and USC logos on the outside, has been growing since he arrived at the university last summer.
That’s when Daryl Gross, Syracuse’s athletic director, turned the deal with MetLife Stadium over to Frazier.
Since then, Frazier has visited MetLife Stadium twice and talks to stadium officials on a weekly basis. He also had several meetings this spring and summer with Syracuse athletic staff to go over MetLife Stadium details.
Frazier and SU athletics, including representatives from the ticket office, football operations and university administration, had a conference call with MetLife officials on Aug. 30 to go over the agenda for Saturday’s game.
“As soon as the conference call was over, boom, we rushed in there and had another meeting with the rest of the staff,” Frazier said.
All those conference calls and meetings will come to fruition Saturday. Afterward, Frazier expects his phone to ring even more.
“I can also tell you I have calls — and I can’t go into who they are — but there are teams who want to get on that schedule in MetLife,” he said. “Big-time schools that are calling me right now. And I suspect after we play on Saturday — and that game obviously is going to be on national TV — once that happens, there will be other institutions that will see that and they’ll be calling us.”
But the USC game will have no bearing on next year’s Penn State game or the matchups against Notre Dame in 2014 or 2016, Frazier said.
“All those contracts are clear and those games are solid and they’re there,” he said.
(No) home to the Dome
As Frazier was being recruited to join SU athletics, he knew the contract with USC promised a game in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — a Sept. 17, 2011, contest that USC won 38-17 — and one in MetLife Stadium.
But no game against USC in the Carrier Dome.
Frazier said just getting USC to come nearly 3,000 miles across the country for a game is a victory.
“Big-time schools that are calling me right now. And I suspect after we play on Saturday — and that game obviously is going to be on national TV — once that happens, there will be other institutions that will see that and they’ll be calling us.”
Herman Frazier, Syracuse deputy athletics director
“I’ve been around S.C. a long time and S.C. can pick and choose what they want to do,” he said.
Saturday’s game is considered a home game for Syracuse, although MetLife Stadium is about 250 miles from the Carrier Dome. Five buses will transport students to and from MetLife Stadium for free on Saturday — something the university has done in the past for away games.
Five of Syracuse’s 12 games this season are in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse had a home game scheduled against TCU this season, but the Horned Frogs changed course last October and joined the Big 12 Conference.
Syracuse would have had six games in the Dome this season if TCU remained in the Big East.
“We tried and tried to get a team to come to the Dome,” said Sue Edson, assistant director of athletics for communications.
But Syracuse wasn’t able to schedule another home game. So the Orange added a matchup in Columbus, Mo., on Nov. 17 against Southeast Conference-newcomer Missouri.
The contract with Missouri is only for one year, Edson said, as the Tigers couldn’t commit to play in the Dome because of the number of conference games on their schedule.
“I realize that people want games in the Dome,” Frazier said. “I am aware of that and we understand that. We will work our darndest to make sure that happens as well. We will have a balance.
“While five home games wasn’t ideal, you got to remember part of that happened because of TCU. But I think it’s in our best interest to always look at somewhere between six and seven games at home if we can do it.”
While other teams may shy away from playing in the Dome, Penn State will play in Syracuse as part of a three-game series with the Orange. The two teams will play at MetLife Stadium on Aug. 31, 2013, in the first game of the series. The second game will be played in State College in 2020, and the third game will take place in Syracuse in 2021.
Syracuse called Notre Dame several years ago about “playing some football games,” said John Heisler, senior associate athletic director for media and broadcast relations at Notre Dame.
Heisler said Notre Dame proposed playing at MetLife Stadium, which at that time was under construction as New Meadowlands Stadium.
The stadium’s seating capacity and Notre Dame’s long history in the Meadowlands were the main reasons why the Fighting Irish wanted to play in what is now MetLife Stadium, he said.
Gross, Heisler and Rob Edson, Syracuse’s former senior associate director of athletics and chief financial officer, worked out the tentative dates in 2008. And, the games were confirmed that summer, Heisler said.
“It’s brand new at this point,” Heisler said of MetLife Stadium. “And from a spectator’s perspective, that’s attractive.”
After Saturday, Syracuse will have games at MetLife Stadium in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Then 10 additional football games against “big-time schools” will be scheduled at the stadium between 2019 and 2038.
For all these pseudo home games, Syracuse will have to transport athletic staff, coaches and players.
That can be costly for a football program that only made $2.4 million in a 2010 season where it went 8-5 and won the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl. That’s especially true when considering the program must remain profitable to help cover the expenses of other Syracuse sports that can’t generate sufficient revenue.
As Syracuse is a private institution, Frazier declined to give financial details of the MetLife Stadium deal.
“I will tell you it’s worth it,” he said. “It’s good exposure. It’s good for recruiting. And financially, we will not be hurt.”
Contact Jon: email@example.com
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