Orange Watch: The unprecedented end of the Syracuse sports calendar

Elijah Huhges
Syracuse forward Elijah Huhges looks to drive. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: It’s now the second unexpected national shutdown of sports and other pastimes during the 2000s, with the only other similar instances of this sort of timelines being the entire 1943 Syracuse football season and 1943-44 basketball campaign being suspended due to World War II combat. Although far from the duration of Syracuse’s football game against East Carolina being pushed back two seeks following the emotional nerve struck by the 9/11/2001 attacks, we can now see how COVID-19 has halted sports, shutting down all Syracuse athletics on March 12, leaving a large number of questions concerning ongoing and still to be determined issues facing the Orange and its contemporaries.

For only the second time in his career, Jim Boeheim won the final game his Syracuse team played in a particular season.

Although a somber occasion with the realization that for the sake of health safety the season could not go on, and obviously not as significant as the other final game victory over Kansas in 2003 to win it all, the eventual lopsided ending March 11 over another Roy Williams-coached team, this time North Carolina down along Tobacco Road in the second round of the ACC Tournament, showcased a one-game scenario of an all-hands on deck among the players to revenge the Feb. 29 Dome domination by the Tar Heels, and another masterful postseason coaching victory for the longtime SU coach.

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It also ended a nine-game losing streak against UNC (SU has never won against the Tar Heels at the Smith Center), and ironically got us thinking that North Carolina was the opponent in the game that originally got Boeheim and the Orangemen over the top; the 1987 Elite Eight victory at the New Jersey Meadowlands versus a Tar Heels team that Dean Smith used the rare word, for him at least, “Great,” in describing his roster full of eight future NBA players that SU toppled on route to the Final Four.

Same for the 2020 No. 1 ranked SU lacrosse team that seemed poised to improve each week as the ACC competition heated up, logically in line for a Final Four berth for the first time since 2013.

Its final game was an impressive first half domination on route to rolling its longtime rival Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, bringing to mind that it was the Blue Jays that SU stung 17-16 with the memorable eight-goal comeback in the 1983 NCAA title game that instantly and permanently put Syracuse lacrosse on the map.

Which brings us to football already stripped of Pro Day for NFL draft prospects, the scheduled spring practices and annual Showcase event. Preparations for Dino Babers fifth season will move forward within the limitations set forth by public health officials and the university administration, in conjunction with the NCAA and ACC declarations, also coming off some momentum.

The double overtime win against Wake Forest to cap off the 2019 season left the ‘Cuse a victory short of bowl eligibility, but combined with a coaching staff turnover including both coordinators and a recruiting class that continues to fill the constant need of ACC-level depth, the Orange appear to be heading in the right direction when the sports schedule calendars eventually resume.

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 648 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.