As we plod on into mid-February, an oasis would typically be materializing on the horizon. The NCAA men‚Äôs basketball tournament in March would be glimmering in the distance with a shoe-in spot reserved for perennially successful Syracuse. We entered this season expecting the team to race on towards its usual destiny, but things changed. This year‚Äôs SU men‚Äôs basketball team has been thin on depth, uncharacteristically inconsistent, and a victim of gut-punch close defeats. The loss of center Jesse Edwards for the rest of the season to a wrist injury was the final, killing blow. At this point, it‚Äôs NIT or bust for the Orange.
This year‚Äôs typical Central New York chill seems to have affected the rest of Syracuse‚Äôs trademark teams, too. SU’s three ‚Äúrevenue sports‚Äù – if you agree with that terminology – have suffered this year. SU football was the first to succumb with a 5-7 season, albeit one that surprised after a dismal 2020. The 2021-22 men‚Äôs hoops team‚Äôs struggles have been well-chronicled, and at least one Fizz writer expects the usually monolithic SU men‚Äôs lacrosse team to finish with its first losing record in 14 years and just its second since 1975. It‚Äôs been a long while since all of Syracuse‚Äôs ‚Äòbig three‚Äô have endured simultaneous losing or tumult.
Granted, there‚Äôs some caveats to all this. The men‚Äôs basketball team is still 13-12, and Gary Gait‚Äôs new-look men‚Äôs lacrosse squad just began its season with a blazing 28-5 win over Holy Cross. Heck, even Syracuse women‚Äôs lacrosse just began its year at No. 3 and with a win over a ranked team. Things aren‚Äôt doom and gloom on the Hill – but there‚Äôs historical significance of losing seasons from potentially all three or even two of SU‚Äôs major sports.
Syracuse men‚Äôs basketball hasn‚Äôt had a losing season since 1968-69, back when Roy Danforth was coaching in Manley Field House. Jim Boeheim has never had a losing campaign, and the closest he‚Äôs come prior to this year was in 1981-82 when his sixth-ever team finished 16-13. If this year‚Äôs edition of ‚ÄòCuse hoops can‚Äôt swing an upset or two in its final five games, it could very well finish 15-17 – or worse.¬†
Meanwhile, SU men‚Äôs lacrosse has been similarly dominant. The program has only finished with a losing record four times since 1970: three consecutive duds from 1973-1975 during Roy Simmons Jr.‚Äôs early years, and a 5-8 showing from John Desko and company in 2008. The 2022 lax squad isn‚Äôt bad by any means, but it has to run a gauntlet of a schedule against the nation‚Äôs best teams after a whole mess of point production departed with last year‚Äôs graduating class.
So when was the last time football, men‚Äôs basketball, and men‚Äôs lacrosse all finished with losing records? It may come as a surprise, but it‚Äôs actually never happened. The three teams finished with non-winning seasons during the 1944-1945 school year, but note that odd distinction. That Spring, Roy Simmons Sr. and the men‚Äôs lacrosse program didn‚Äôt field a team for the third straight year due to World War II, making their record officially 0-0. Earlier in the Fall, football finished 2-4-1 after returning from a war hiatus in 1943, while men‚Äôs basketball went 7-12 under head coach Lew Andreas. Needless to say, it would have been a tough year to write for Fizz.
Fortunately, there‚Äôs some relief on the horizon for all three programs. Dino Babers and SU football have had a pretty strong offseason, men‚Äôs basketball has its best recruiting class in years entering the fray next Fall, and men‚Äôs lacrosse is just starting a new era under established and successful coaches. It may seem like a rough time to be an SU sports fan, but take heart – there‚Äôs hopefully brighter days ahead.