I remember when Syracuse University athletics was all about the product on the field or court. Now there are bells, whistles and more.
Take, for example, the Orange Madness scheduled for Friday night. This introduction to the basketball teams (men and women) didn’t exist on the Syracuse campus until 2007. It normally consists of scrimmages, drills, a three-point shooting contest and dunk contest. You might remember Paul Harris jumping over two guys and Arinze Onuaku breaking a backboard that first year.
The 2012 edition will include an appearance by rapper Wale, which is ironic since he’s from the home of rival Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Co-hosting the event are Scoop Jardine—that sometimes infuriating but always fun-loving recent graduate—and Jasmine Jordan—daughter of the greatest basketball player of all time and current student. Meanwhile, the university has been encouraging attendees to dress in orange, break out the “Big Heads” and ignite “the Loud House.” After all, this has to look good for a national TV audience. ESPNU and ESPN3.com are televising the event, which begin at 8 p.m.
In reality, Friday is the first day NCAA permits formal practice, but this day has become a production. It’s another way the athletic department since Dr. Daryl Gross took charge has taken steps to diversify the product, further engage its audience, attract more attention and keep up with the competition.
It’s sounds like fun. So why didn’t Syracuse have one for years even though madness programs have existed for decades? All I can think is that Coach Jim Boeheim simply wasn’t interested in hosting one. A flashy introduction to the team isn’t exactly his style.
But with Gross’ vision to grow, improve and enhance athletics—and with Boeheim close to retirement—the introduction of a madness event makes sense. All of the top programs have one, and Syracuse needs it to hang on to the elite status it’s enjoyed the last few years. The end goal of course is to impact the product on the field.
You can bet there’ll be a few recruits watching the action in the Dome and many more watching on TV. Last year’s visitors included Nerlens Noel (who chose Kentucky), Isaiah Briscoe (then a high school freshman) and Tyler Ennis (committed to Syracuse for the Class of 2013).
It’s funny. Back in the old days—just more than seven years ago—we used to rely on newspaper season previews and the first exhibition game to get a look at that year’s squad. Crazy, right?
Enjoy the bells and whistles, kids. Say your hellos to the 2012-2013 edition, including Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair and freshmen Jerami Grant and DaJuan Coleman. Then let them get to work. There’s only so much time for fun and games. The team has less than a month to prepare for the season-opening Battle of the Midway (another one of those off-field productions) against San Diego State.