Item: Last Friday’s emotionally balanced service at Hendricks Chapel has been well documented for the heart-felt eulogies spoken by family and close friends, and from our first row balcony seat, in addition to family, friends, and many university community members occupying the first 10 rows, there was an impressive assemblage of Hall of Famers, head coaches from the NFL and FBS, former players from top college athletes to those that had stellar pro and post-football careers, to national media members spread out below. It was quite a visual statement about the shared Syracuse University connection coming together to honor Coach Mac.
Group by group folks entered the building a half hour before the service got underway, many clustered in small groups with plenty of handshakes and hugs spread around, and talk in hushed tones with an occasional hearty laugh.
Familiar faces that blended in amongst folks in different groups were Randy Edsall in one row, Daryl Johnston in another. Strolling in shortly after was Doug Marrone, seated a few rows behind Don McPherson and Tim Green, two of the nine pallbearers along the left side of the chapel’s main floor.
Seated across the aisle among other ex-SU players from multi generations paying their respects were Floyd Little along with Herm Frazier, with Jim Boeheim, Dino Babers, John Wildhack, and Jim Ridlon seated nearby.
The Coach Mac stories shared by those on stage spotlighted the special human nature the Maine native, and 11th of 12 children, displayed over his lifetime with everyone he encountered, be it friend or stranger.
Sure, there were the expected remembrances of the glory of the undefeated 1987 Sugar Bowl season, and his ascension to the sport’s coaching pinnacle when named the Patriots head coach in his native New England in 1991, but there was no much more from different perspectives.
The tales brought tears and laughs and a heartfelt standing ovation, and the inside stories that only family members could share of a man with deep faith and attendee of Daily Mass, offered a glimpse of Coach Mac handling a dilemma with a grandchild just as smoothly as he would with a recruit and his family on campus or game plan against a top opponent.
That is with a bit of thoughtfulness, dignity, class, enthusiastic humor…and a little (naughty) playfulness sometimes mixed in as well.
We’ll miss you, Coach Mac.