Item: When the 2016 Syracuse football schedule came out recently, we were pondering this scenario: If there’s one legendary football/basketball program that’s never played in the Dome’s 36 year history, signifying the ‘modern era’ of ‘Cuse athletics, that we’d like to see come to central New York for first-ever appearances, it’s the national champion Crimson Tide to face SU football, and the team the Orangemen defeated for the 2003 hoops national title, the Kansas Jayhawks, in one of those fanatical 35,000 plus Dome settings.
Before Nick Saban decides to retire as one of the best ever in college football coaching circles one of these upcoming seasons, and fresh off his fifth national title, Syracuse AD Mark Coyle should have Floyd Little and Jim Boeheim get on a call with the one-time Frank Maloney outside linebackers coach (1977) and ask Saban for a favor.
With Alabama being the only school among the top seven in all-time victories having never ventured inside the Dome to play the Orange (Alabama did play on campus, and lost to SU 23-0 at Archbold Stadium in 1923, and ‘Bama blasted Syracuse 61-6 in SU’s first-ever bowl appearance in the 1953 Orange Bowl), would Saban coax Alabama AD Bill Battle, who way back when was a first year Tennessee assistant coach under Doug Dickey in 1966 when the Volunteers beat Ben Schwartzwalder’s Orangemen 18-12 in the ’66 Gator Bowl, to agree to a home-and-home series with Syracuse?
All Saban would have to do is tell Battle of his desire to repay the place where he coached between stops at Kent State and West Virginia early in his career for a SU team that went 6-5, including a victory over that season’s Rose Bowl champion Washington Huskies, while pointing out the fact that SEC mate LSU played in the Dome last season with the Orange headed to Baton Rouge next year.
Checking schedules at this juncture, 2023 is the first year Syracuse doesn’t have a Power 5 non- conference game slated, while it’s 2019 for Alabama, so perhaps a home-and-home series could be scheduled for down the road, even the next decade after Saban has retired, a Dome matchup mixing Crimson and Orange.
While Syracuse and Kansas have met most famously in the 2003 NCAA title game at the Louisiana
Superdome in New Orleans, where the Orange got “those four seconds back” for Boeheim, there have also been two other NCAA meetings; the memorable Elite Eight West Regional game at Denver in 1996 in which the SU 2-3 zone flummoxed the Jayhawks into 34% shooting (22 of 64!) in a 60-57 victory to advance to the Final Four, and a dominating 87-58 KU win in a 2001 second round Midwest Regional game at Dayton.
Now, while Syracuse has played at legendary Allen Field House in Lawrence, a 1968 blowout loss 71-41, and playing man-to-man defense (believe it or not) during a crucial second half stretch, got by the Jayhawks 89-81 at their other nearby “home court” the Sprint Center in Kansas City in the 2008 early season CBE Classic title game, the reverse situation has never occurred.
Similar to the Alabama scenario in football, Kansas is the only school among the top 11 programs in all time victories that has not played hoops in front of a large Dome crowd, but even with the ‘Cuse annually obligated to play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, this should be an easy one to set up with all of the constituents involved, Boeheim (or Mike Hopkins) and Coyle and counterparts Bill Self and Sheahon Zenger (who like Coyle has a Drake University connection), the ACC and Big XII, and TV partners ESPN and FOX.