Football players learn from an early age to dread the angry, shrieking whistle that signifies "up-downs" – a common, on-the-spot penance for lapses of focus or effort in practice that requires players to perform a sort of auto-bodyslam, flinging themselves to the turf, springing back to their feet, then back down again with a thud. And so forth until the coach is satisfied the message has been sufficiently communicated. Fumble? Up-downs. Jump offsides? Up-downs. All-purpose loafing? Up-downs. Eliminate these errors, no more up-downs.
Naturally, most coaches relish the opportunity to play judge, jury and drill sergeant. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, on the other hand, is a champion of democracy, which is why he was left with no choice earlier this week but to respond with a mental error during practice by applying the appropriate punishment to himself:
Doug Marrone stopped drills Tuesday after he became confused about what session was coming next during practice.
Realizing his error, he performed five "up-downs" – when you run in place then drop to the ground and quickly stand and continue running.
"I made a mistake. We hold the players accountable for their own actions, so if I make a mistake I have to hold myself accountable just like the players," Marrone said after practice.
Marrone, 48, calculated that his last up-down was as a Syracuse player under long-time 'Cuse coach Dick MacPherson in the 1980s, many years and many pounds ago. "We would have to do 25 before each practice. Coach Mac would've been proud," he told the local Post-Standard. "I don't know if I could have done 25, but the ones I did were to Coach Mac's standards."
Numbers are besides the point: Quality over quantity, coach, quality over quantity. Well, unless you're talking about wins, of course, in which case Syracuse fans are pretty much down at this point with whatever quantity you got.