On Wednesday, we ranked the top 10 through 6 best seasons in Syracuse athletics history. Today, we finish our countdown with the top 5 season of all time!
5. 2015 field hockey
Often overlooked, Syracuse field hockey turned in one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the sport. The team lost just one game the entire season in the ACC championship game against UNC. That loss didn’t stop them from rolling through the NCAA tournament, winning every game they played by at least two goals. ‘Cuse would have it’s revenge in a number of ways as well. It took down UConn in the semifinal, who had beaten the Orange in the national championship game the year before. Syracuse completed its dream season by knocking off North Carolina 4-2 in the title game.
4. 1990 men’s lacrosse
Screw the NCAA. This season belongs on this list. The second of Syracuse’s undefeated seasons was wiped out due to a NCAA violation involving Paul Gait, but that doesn’t change what happened on the field in 1990. There is a reason this is considered one of the best team’s in men’s lacrosse history. ‘Cuse dominated en route to its third-straight title. The Orange won their three tournament games by a combined 31 points, including a 21-9 rout in the finals. Syracuse became just the second program in NCAA history to win three championships in a row. That is more than good enough for a top-five spot on this list.
3. 1959 football
In terms of founding the identity of sports success at Syracuse, there might not be a more important season in school history than the 1959 football season. It stands to this day as the only national championship in program history. ‘Cuse took down Texas in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day in 1960. It did so on the back of the “Elmira Express.” Jim Brown is widely regarded as the best college athlete ever, but Ernie Davis definitely gave him a run for his money. He won MVP of that Cotton Bowl game and would go on to be the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy the following year, as if you don’t know all of that. What you might not know is that Syracuse actually had more passing yards in that game than rushing. That was mostly due to Davis’ 87-yard catch and run in the first half. Brown’s legacy alone would have made 44 special, but Davis solidified it’s spot in history.
2. 1988 men’s lacrosse
What makes this season stand out from all the rest is that it was the first undefeated season for the team. Syracuse men’s lacrosse has a standard of excellence, there is no doubt about that. The 1988 team took it a new level. Gary Gait changed the sport during the title run, scoring on the famous “Air Gait” shot in a win over Penn in the semis. He broke it out again in the championship game. The NCAA outlawed the shot shortly after the season. With the 23-5 dismantling of Navy in the quarters (which included a tournament-record nine goals from Gait), the tight semis win or the coronation in an all-CNY final win over Cornell, this tournament run had it all and ended with the program’s second national championship.
1. 2002-03 men’s basketball
I don’t think there is any arguing this one. For Jim Boeheim to finally win a championship was something that was good for all of basketball. He had come up just short in 1987 and 1996, so this felt like a culmination of what had been 27 years in the making. This group was a ton of fun to watch and still represents some of the most iconic faces in program history. What makes this run all the more special was how the season before wrapped up for Syracuse. Despite some early success in 2002, the Orange fell apart down the stretch and missed the NCAA tournament. For a school that has so long prided itself on being a basketball school, this is its crowning athletic achievement.