Orange Watch: Fondly remembering former Syracuse football coach Frank Maloney

Former Syracuse football coach Frank Maloney
Former Syracuse football coach Frank Maloney. AP Photo/John Berry.

Item: Syracuse athletics announced through his family that Maloney died Monday at his Chicago home at age 79. He served Syracuse honorably between two college football Hall of Fame members, Ben Schwartzwalder and Dick MacPherson. Maloney led the Orangemen to their first bowl game victory in 18-years with the 1979 Independence Bowl blitz over McNeese State, was the SU coach in Archbold Stadium’s last season and the Dome’s first season, while mentoring 19 Syracuse NFL draft picks over seven years.

The old adage in coaching is don’t be the one succeeding a legend. It’s almost always a no-win situation.

Instead, it’s better to be the person who succeeds the person who succeeds a legend.

Case in point. After 25 years in which the brilliant Ben Schwartzwalder crafted an eventual Hall of Fame career, brought Syracuse its only national championship in 1959, was prominent in his guidance of the first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, Ernie Davis in 1961, s story later portrayed on the big screen by actor Dennis Quaid in 2008’s “The Express,” but was later stung by the “Syracuse 8” racially-charged player boycott in 1970, signaling the Coach Ben era on The Hill was shortly coming to an end.

In came Frank Maloney following the 1973 season. A ‘Michigan Man’ to the core under Bo Schembechler, Maloney played offensive guard for the Wolverines in the early sixties, then was an assistant at UM from 1969 until being hired by Syracuse.

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Wanting to completely distance himself from the Schwartzwalder era, Maloney, much to the chagrin of many close to the ‘Cuse program, changed the uniforms in year one. Out was the signature orange helmet, replaced by a mundane white helmet with a blue decal and the letters “SU” in orange, and the familiar blue jerseys replaced by orange, a look that lasted only three seasons before the return to orange helmets and blue home jerseys.

The 1970s was a time that Penn State and Pittsburgh dominated the Eastern Football Independents, and Maloney and his staffs were hampered by not only a crumbling Archbold home field that they avoided taking recruits to view, but inferior training and practice facilities compared to the bigger state schools, especially Joe Paterno and the mighty Penn State program.

Following a 2-9 debut in 1974, there were winning seasons in ‘75 and ’77, creating plenty of optimism heading into the 1978 season opener against Florida State at Archbold. That is until SU quarterback extraordinaire Bill Hurley was knocked out of the game and essentially the season with a leg injury, and the only highlight of the 3-8 disappointment that followed was upsetting No. 18 Navy 20-17 in the Archbold finale.

With the Dome being built, SU played all 11 games of the 1979 schedule outside of Syracuse, but lost a shot at finishing 7-4 and gaining a Tangerine Bowl bid in Orlando against potentially LSU, by dropping the regular season finale in Ithaca against Boston College 27-10 (yours truly handled the public address announcing duties that afternoon). Instead, SU went to Shreveport, La. and showed its prowess against home state McNeese State

Rewarded with coaching the first year of the modern marvel that was the Carrier Dome circa 1980, Maloney suffered bad luck when Joe Morris got hurt hitting a non-padded Dome wall in game three against Northwestern, missing five games in which the Orange went 2-3 on route to a 5-6 finish.

Still relatively new (March 1978) athletic director Jake Crouthamel wanted his own choice running the football program, and in December 1980 MacPherson was introduced as Maloney’s replacement between games of that season’s Carrier Classic opening night doubleheader.

After a year scouting for the Dallas Cowboys, Maloney returned to Chicago where he coached Mount Carmel High School (Donovan McNabb’s alma mater) to the 1967 Catholic League city championship, to work for MLB’s Chicago Cubs ticket department, rising in two years to director of ticket operations.

Over the next 27 years, Maloney would process hundreds of Cubs ticket requests from Syracuse connections far-and-wide, the common denominator being that everyone wanted to watch a Cubs game at “The Friendly Confines.” That includes this Orange Watch columnist and Padres fan.

As we look upward, we pronounce: “Thanks again, Frank Maloney, for your thoughtful gesture and great pair of tickets to the Padres-Cubs game at Wrigley during the 1998 season.”

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Brad Bierman
About Brad Bierman 692 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.