Syracuse football is steeped in a rich history and tradition of excellence. From national championships and legendary players to heated rivalries and name changes, Syracuse has made an indelible impact on the college game. Let’s take a deep dive into the origins, iconic moments, and future outlook for this storied team.
Syracuse played its inaugural season way back in 1889, losing to Rochester 36-0 in front of just a few dozen spectators. Early successes were sporadic, but the construction of Archbold Stadium in 1907 ushered in an era of national prominence. Legendary coach Frank “Buck” O’Neill led Syracuse through the early 20th century.
The 1950s and 1960s were a golden age for Syracuse football. Running back Jim Brown, guard Roger Davis, offensive lineman Robert Yates, and defensive end Fred Mautino were all key figures in helping instill a winning tradition at Syracuse. After Brown’s dominance, running backs Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, and Larry Csonka carried the torch and led the team to many successful seasons in the 1960s.
On Jan. 1, 1960, an undefeated Syracuse team reached the pinnacle of college football and defeated Texas in the Cotton Bowl to capture the school’s first and only national championship. Led by All-American halfback Ernie Davis, who a year later became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, Syracuse finished No. 1 in the polls to cement its place in history.
Syracuse has produced a staggering number of All-Americans and NFL stars. Along with the aforementioned Brown and Davis, who are immortalized with statues outside the Carrier Dome, fellow Hall of Famers Little and Csonka also made significant impacts in the backfield. More recently, Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison, and Dwight Freeney have flown the Orange flag in the NFL.
Syracuse has longstanding rivalries with local foes like Penn State, Pittsburgh, Army, and Colgate, plus some more recent feuds with Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. These rivalry games, whether home or away, always produce an electric atmosphere. With Syracuse joining the ACC in 2013, emerging rivalries with Florida State and Clemson have only added intrigue.
After some challenging years, including the school changing their name from Orangemen to Orange in 2004, there is renewed optimism around the program under coach Dino Babers. Babers led the Orange to 10 wins in 2018 behind the arm of quarterback Eric Dungey. Although the team struggled from 2019 to 2021, the Orange went 7-6 in 2022 and played in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Now in his eighth season as head coach and with college football odds makers projecting another bowl appearance in 2023 (4-4 record thus far), the future looks bright for Babers’ Orange squad.
The storied history of Syracuse football is filled with thrilling upsets, legendary players, and a passionate fanbase. Though the last national title came over 60 years ago, the foundation is in place for new chapters of excellence to be written. The echoes of past glories coupled with stars like QB Garrett Shrader give Syracuse fans plenty to cheer about both now and in the future. The Orange Crush is alive and well.