What is the significance of Syracuse football restoring 44?

Little was one of SU's legends to wear 44
Little was one of SU’s legends to wear 44

On Tuesday, Syracuse interim athletic director Pete Sala and SU football legend Floyd Little announced that the football program would “restore 44,” ending a decade long retirement for the vaunted number. What does this mean for SU? Our panel at The Juice Online discussed.

Steve Auger: Before Rob Gronkowski started running by, over, and through defensive backs on his way to the end zone while morphing into The Gronk off the field, there was Rob Konrad. Konrad’s NFL career didn’t reach nearly the level of success as Gronkowski, but, when the North Andover, MA native arrived at Syracuse in the Fall of 1995, the sky was the limit. Konrad wore the number 44 from Day One. He had linebacker size and strength and safety speed, yet, operated as a fullback. Konrad could beat an opponent in any number of ways; bursting through the line for a big gain, using his speed to make a play out in the flat, or lining up as a receiver. Only a select few in Orange history have been worthy of donning the legendary 44 and Konrad is a member of that exclusive club. The search is now on for the next guardian of the throne. Robert Washington, are you listening?

Brad Bierman: Kudos to Syracuse interim athletic director Pete Sala and Orange legend Floyd Little who spearheaded the effort to get the blessing of the chancellor to finally undo what was short-sighted thinking to begin with a decade ago, deciding to pull No. 44 out of circulation and up onto the Dome rafters. Former AD Daryl Gross certainly wanted to make a splashy entrance onto the scene in 2005 and besides a host of changes in his first year on the job, some of them positive, the move to persuade an initially reluctant Little and Jim Brown to get on board with the 44 retirement plan never seemed to make sense. Why take away tradition and a recruiting tool if there’s a prospect that fits the criteria to follow Ernie Davis, Little, Brown, and a host of others to justify donning the 44 jersey? A program like Syracuse needs every advantage it can get.

» Related: Syracuse basketball should think about issuing a 44, too

The irony was juicy at Tuesday afternoon’s ceremony to unveil the new Plaza 44 space to be replete with sculptures of the great Orange trio of running backs. As Sala was announcing the return of “44” and essentially rebuking Gross’s original decision, seated just feet away was Gross himself, which had to make for an awkward moment in what was otherwise an afternoon to celebrate Syracuse football past, present, and future.

Wesley Cheng: Consider this quote from Washington to Scout.com’s Mike McAllister following the announcement: “My immediate reaction when I first saw they unretired 44 was it’s a great day to be an Orange,” Washington said. “When you bring back a number like 44 that represents so much more than a player, it’s very special.” Clearly, the recruits get it and understand what the number represents. It’s a nice card to have in your pocket if you’re Scott Shafer. The unretiring of the number seems like a no brainer, despite the fact that Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Kevin Quinn told Syracuse.com’s Chris Carlson that No. 44 will be worn in a “special circumstance.” If anything, that is perhaps another great recruiting tool to use on a highly prized prospect that truly is special. And for what it’s worth, Washington seems to be that kind of prospect.

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