Joe Girard’s time playing for Syracuse was nothing short of fascinating, not necessarily for the right reasons. The guard’s performance in the Empire Classic last November sums that up perfectly. In the first game against Richmond, Girard lit the world on fire with a career-high 31 points, as good as single-handedly carrying the Orange to an overtime victory. But the very next night in the title game against St. John’s, Girard was a no-show with just four points in 38 minutes. Girard entered the transfer portal not long after the season ended, and now we know what his future entails…
Assuming the ACC continues with the scheduling format it’s used over the past few seasons, Syracuse will host Clemson at some point this upcoming season. That means Girard will be back in the Dome at some point. The only question is, how will he be greeted?
Let’s address the obvious first in that Girard bolted for another ACC foe. SU’s blowout loss down in South Carolina last February was one of many ugly games endured as the season came to an end. Even though Clemson is not on the hate list of Syracuse fans like Pittsburgh or Boston College might be, leaving for a conference rival will always leave a bit of a bitter taste. We see more of that with a ridiculously active transfer portal these days, but it’s true every time. The same thing would apply if Girard had gone to Georgia Tech, Florida State, or Louisville. Girard going to a conference rival will likely draw at minimum a few boos.
Also, fans have not been hesitant to express their displeasure with Girard over the years. You’ve heard all of the roasts and bashes over the years. “Patriot League Guard”, “shouldn’t be starting”, and “traffic cone on defense” are a few that have been particularly popular. While some of those may be extreme, there are some instances in his play that have rightfully rubbed fans the wrong way. Regardless of whether he was on fire or cold as ice, Girard was never hesitant to unload a three-pointer from 30+ feet out with a man right in his face. And while part of the blame goes to genetics, it’s hard to effectively play the top of a zone against ACC competition at his size. Finally, who can forget him throwing it right to Pete Nance in crunch time against North Carolina? If you want to boo him for his poor decision-making or defensive ineptitude, you wouldn’t be blamed.
With that in mind, you have to remember the good times. Girard was one of the core members of yet another surprise Sweet 16 run in 2021. He was unconscious from beyond the arc at the start of the 21-22 campaign. But what really sticks out is a prolonged stretch of success this season after perhaps the worst performance of his career. Girard was held scoreless against Illinois in the final Big Ten-ACC Challenge, drawing more ire than ever. How does he respond? 10 consecutive games of 15+ points, far and away the longest stretch of his career. Syracuse would not have had a fighting chance this season if Girard hadn’t picked it up when he did. Did he make it look pretty? Absolutely not, but when Syracuse desperately needed Girard to step up, more often than not he did.
Wrapping it up, it’s a safe assumption that when Clemson visits the Dome, Girard will hear a mixture of applause and boos, because that’s a perfect picture of what his SU career was like. Very frequently, you couldn’t believe your eyes at how well he played. But very frequently, you couldn’t believe your eyes at how poorly he played. Regardless, Clemson’s trip to Central New York will be the final chapter written of Girard’s really head-scratching story with SU fans.