Syracuse University Magazine

Shafer Steps Up


New Syracuse University head football coach Scott Shafer had a strong hand in the resurrection of the Orange, and he plans to keep building on that success. Shafer, who served as defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, took over the program in January when Doug Marrone ’91 departed Syracuse to become head coach of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. “We are just so excited and thrilled that we can hand the torch to a man who is so deserving of being a head coach,” athletics director Daryl Gross said at a press conference, introducing Shafer as the new leader of the Orange. “It was a perfect fit. We got a quality man right here.”

Shafer has more than two decades of collegiate coaching experience and is prominently regarded for his aggressive defenses. A 1990 graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College, where he played quarterback, Shafer grew up in a football family in Painesville, Ohio. His late father coached him in high school, and Shafer says he’s dreamed of being a head coach since he was 10 years old. After college, he signed on as a graduate assistant at Indiana University and began building his reputation as an innovative defensive specialist. En route to Syracuse, he made stops at the University of Rhode Island, Northern Illinois, Illinois, Western Michigan, Stanford, and Michigan, serving primarily as a defensive coordinator. “We want to make SU one of the best teams in the nation,” he said. “That is a goal of ours.”

When Shafer arrived in Syracuse in 2009, Marrone tasked him with helping rebuild a team that had collected only 10 wins in the previous four seasons. Over the next four seasons, the Orange went 25-25, including 8-5 records—and New Era Pinstripe Bowl victories—in 2010 and 2012. The Orange also grabbed a share of the Big East title last season. Shafer’s blitzing and relentless defenses propelled SU into the upper tier of the national rankings in several defensive categories, including sixth in tackles for a loss (2012). In 2010, the Orange defense was ranked seventh in the country, earning award nominations for Shafer as the nation’s top assistant coach.

The Orange’s turnaround did not go unnoticed. NFL teams went in pursuit of Marrone, who joins New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin ’68 G’69 as one of two Syracuse alumni leading teams in the league. When Shafer was introduced as SU’s 29th head coach, he shared his vision for the program and talked about his beliefs in developing student-athletes and maintaining the team’s academic excellence. “To carry on the values of integrity, commitment, excellence, and teamwork, and put them into action with great attitude, effort, and enthusiasm,” he said. “It’s those three pillars that we will always point back to as we try to progress forward in making this community proud of the product we put on that football field.”

He said he envisions a “hard-nosed team that’s from a hard-nosed town” with a crushing defense and a “fast, fun, and inventive” offense. He also envisions a Dome that “shakes and intimidates” and a student body in the stands that will take on the role of 12th man. “We’re counting on them to help us intimidate the opposing team,” he said. 

With several former assistants joining Marrone in Buffalo, Shafer pushed forward with the program. He squared up his staff, signed recruits, ran spring practice, and prepared for the season ahead—the Orange’s first in the Atlantic Coast Conference. “We’re going to storm that conference and we’re going to do better than people think we can in year one,” he said.  

If that isn’t motivation enough, you can be sure it will be game-on for the Orange when Shafer steps onto the field this fall as a head coach for the first time. He’ll realize his childhood dream, remember all the hard work he’s put in to get there, and be ready for all the hard work ahead, knowing he’ll demand it from himself and the program to achieve his vision of success. —Jay Cox

2013 Syracuse University Football Schedule

August 31: New York’s College Classic vs. Penn State at MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)

September 7: at Northwestern

September 14: vs. Wagner

September 21: vs. Tulane

October 5: vs. Clemson*

October 12: at North Carolina State*

October 19: at Georgia Tech*

November 2: vs. Wake Forest*

November 9: at Maryland*

November 16: at Florida State*

November 23: vs. Pittsburgh*

November 30: vs. Boston College*

*ACC game

All home games are in the Carrier Dome.