Newshouse Sports

The world of sports from a few Syracuse students

A farewell

Posted by Matt Gelb on December 2, 2008

Robinsons final press conference was, at times, worthy of this reaction. (Associated Press)

Robinson's final press conference was, at times, worthy of this reaction. (Associated Press)

Greg Robinson pulled a single sheet of paper, highlighted in green and orange. Why, people wondered, was he able to stay so optimistic through everything — the 10-37 record, the constant speculation and the perrenial losing. He attempted to answer that.

Defiant to the final moments of his tenure as Syracuse football head coach, Robinson read the plot of “The Little Engine That Could” to the 25 or so media members gathered for his final press conference.

“In the tale, a long train must be pulled over a high mountain,” Robinson said. “Various larger engines are asked to pull the train. For various reasons, they refuse. The request is sent to a small engine, who agrees to try. The engine succeeds in pulling the train over the mountain, while repeating…

Robinson then turned to his right and looked at Syracuse play-by-play man Matt Park.

“What did he say, Matt?”

“I think I can, coach,” Park replied. (Later, Park told me that was not rehearsed in any manner at all.)

“That’s right,” Robinson said. “Well you know what? I still think I can. I do.”

In an opening statement that lasted nearly 16 minutes, Robinson rambled on just about every subject that caused his demise. He harped on the infrastructure he installed and the positives he saw.

But mostly, Robinson let four years of frustration out in about 25 minutes. From bad penalty calls during his final game, injuries, missed recruits, to the way he and his team “fought the fight.”

“My stomach is sick,” Robinson said. “I need relief. I need a pill, because I’m sick to my stomach that it’s done. That’s what I hate. Is what’s in my gut. Shoot. That’s the biggest regret. Pulling boxes into my office. That’s ugly. It is.”

He talked about his wife, who sat in the very back of the auditorium, and how she embraced the community. He spoke about his son, Dominick, who will continue to live and work in the area while his parents leave. He recalled his relationship with the late Jim Valvano, who motivated him.

He took swipes at the schedule his teams have faced, yearly the toughest non-conference slate in the Big East. He lamented over injuries to Delone Carter, Curtis Brinkley and Jermaine Pierce. He wished, again, that he had Mike Williams and Taj Smith at wide receiver this year.

He even talked about his first recruiting target, Colt Brennan, who wasn’t allowed by school officials to enroll at Syracuse because of charges against him at Colorado.

“I was told to do my homework on him,” Robinson said. “I did. I did my due-dilligence way past what anybody would have ever thought. … I knew we needed a quarterback. And I checked that kid out. You know what? He came in third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. And then he decided to stay his senior year at Hawaii because he felt like those people reached out to him. But hey, he was coming (here). I think if our people knew me better like they do now, they would have said, ‘Go ahead. Work with him.’ That’s easy to say, but that would be a good way to start. That was the first guy I started recruiting.”

At times, he was upset. Mostly, he was fiery.

“My stomach is sick,” Robinson said. “I need relief. I need a pill, because I’m sick to my stomach that it’s done. That’s what I hate, is what’s in my gut. Shoot. That’s the biggest regret. Pulling boxes into my office. That’s ugly. It is.”

For now, he said he will focus on helping his staff find jobs elsewhere. Robinson said he is certain he will coach somewhere next season. He joked about going for the job at nearby Christian Brothers Academy, and even coming back to SU.

“My intent is to re-apply for my job,” Robinson said. “But I don’t know if I’m getting anywhere with that. As a matter of fact, I’m maybe willing to offer up compensation if I get my job back, to give back to the facilities or do whatever.”

It was as surreal as press conferences come. A dizzying and sad ending to four years of futility under Robinson.

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