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Darryl Gross’ History Classes are Blessing and Curse

No matter how pure the intentions, when your actions are constant and regular they can tend to lose their meaning and be taken for granted.

Which is exactly what is happening to Syracuse athletics on The Hill.

You likely already know Orange football will play Colgate tomorrow inside the Dome. You may have heard SU is 2-1 and needs this win over this former rival to keep the eternal flame alive for six wins and a bowl bid. However, you may not know tomorrow the 1984 team that upset then-national power Nebraska will also be honored.

Because last week was Floyd Little’s ceremony. And last year was Art Monk’s. And #44 was retired a few years back. And the 1959 national title team commemorated. And Ernie Davis’ Heisman Trophy had it’s day. And a statue. And a dormitory. And that’s just the football program.

“Syracuse’s 1984 team will be honored as part of 2010 Legends Day. The 1984 squad shocked the college football world when it defeated No. 1 Nebraska, 17-9, in the Carrier Dome and will return to Ernie Davis Legend’s Field for the sixteenth anniversary of the win. More than 20 members of the squad will return to reflect on the victory and the team that helped lay the foundation for the success that Syracuse football enjoyed following the win. The members of the 1984 team will be in the SU Family Fun Zone and on the Quad to meet fans and sign autographs prior to the game.”

I sat in the upper level last Saturday and took in the sights and sounds of the Dome for the first time in a decade. The Sam’s Club-esque concourse concrete slabs. The sizzle of the White Hot Coneys. The hammered guy from Cicero wearing his tattered Marvin Graves jersey. Plenty was just as I left it when I graduated in ’01.

But one dramatic change that is unavoidable is the vast amount of banners inside the Dome. Each school in the Big East has its flag. Each SU bowl team is recognized. Huge pictures of the ’59 and ’03 national championship moments. Hell, the 1915 and 1918 basketball teams have larger-than-life pictorials for their high GPAs or something.

Darryl Gross’ uncovering of the history of Syracuse athletics is a worthy cause. He understands better than any AD before him how to use the rich tradition of SU to connect with fans, alumni and recruits. Pride in your program opens revenue streams and his job first and foremost is to bring in as much of that in as possible.

By the end of Crouthamel’s tenure it had become all too obvious the dynamic of college athletics had passed him by. He was an old-school curmudgeon stuck in the yesteryears of the 70s and 80s, unwilling or unwanting to recognize how college sports had become marketing and exposure and big money.

Gross gets this and with it has brought a tad of 6th Avenue and Hollywood to the Hill. Some of it good, like honoring Jim Brown and Little and the Heisman. Some of it has seemed forced, like “NY’s College Team,” the “Orange Empire” and “The Express” hoopla. And then some just comes off as ridiculous, like oversized banners of basketball teams from the turn of the century or Legend’s Day at halftime of a 1-AA game.

Gross’ spirit is in the right place (even if it’s for money). A tip of the cap and a dusting off of the newsreel footage of the legends that walked this great campus. But even the best intentions can leave us numbed when it’s a never-ending wave of names and years and bodies that come traipsing through the Dome. I wish I was more excited for the 1984 football team to be remembered. Unfortunately, it’s become just part of the white noise at the Dome.

Posted: D.A.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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