Former Fizz is a new interview series where we talk with previous Orange Fizz staff writers about Syracuse sports from when they were on campus. Topics include specific players and games, special memories and of course Jim Boeheim throughout the years. You can listen to all of the episodes on the Orange Fizz SoundCloud or orangefizz.net.
On the third episode, Tyler Aki joins as the special guest. He is currently a producer at ESPN Chicago. We aren’t going too far back because Tyler was a student at Syracuse University from 2015-2019. He remembers watching Eric Dungey lead the Orange and seeing Mike Hopkins leave the Orange. The interview is below, followed by an abbreviated Q&A from the discussion. We hope you enjoy!
QUESTION: Who were the standout football players for Syracuse while you were a student?
ANSWER: Eric Dungey is the first one that comes to mind because he started all four years when I was at school. He goes down as one of the best leaders and quarterbacks in Syracuse history. There were also a lot of great wide receivers, including Amba Etta-Tawo and Steve Ishmael. Then defensively Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett. Plus Andre Szmyt and Riley Dixon on the special teams.
QUESTION: What was the general opinion of Dino Babers when he was hired in after the 2015 season?
ANSWER: There was a select group of Syracuse fans that wanted Ed Orgeron to be named head coach, but when Dino came in things changed. There was an upbeat feel to the program.
QUESTION: How sad was it to have such a disappointing football program during your first three years and how sweet was it to have a successful season in your last year?
ANSWER: There was a gradual progression for Syracuse football when I was there. It started with very low expectations, but then things got built up with Babers taking over and Eric Dungey leading the offense.
QUESTION: What was the best game for Syracuse football while you were a student?
ANSWER: It was no doubt beating Clemson in the Dome.
QUESTION: What was the worst football game you witnessed while on the hill?
ANSWER: The most deflating game was losing to Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in 2018. Syracuse was riding high with some momentum at its back, the game was being played in New York, the SU basketball team was also in the city for some games, but there were still more ND fans in the stands and the Irish just destroyed Syracuse. Plus, SU basketball lost that weekend too, so it was a tough stretch for Orange fans.
QUESTION: How much confidence did you have in the 2015-2016 Syracuse Basketball team going into March Madness and how surprised were you when they went on a run?
ANSWER: I remember how the bracket was leaked before the selection show and how shocked I was when I saw Syracuse as a ten-seed. Once they got in the tournament, however, they put together a good win over Virginia and avoided having to play Michigan State. They had a lot of talent on that roster.
QUESTION: What was your opinion on Mike Hopkins leaving Syracuse?
ANSWER: We thought recruiting was going to take the biggest hit, which has proven true. Plus, we thought Hopkins was going to take over as head coach once Boeheim retired, but that was taking too long and you can’t push out Jim Boeheim because he deserves to leave on his own terms.
QUESTION: If you could put together a starting five of Syracuse basketball players that played while you were a student, who would be in it?
ANSWER: Michael Gbinije, Tyus Battle, Malachi Richardson, Andrew White, Tyler Lydon