Orange Watch: When Syracuse basketball went from orange to blue

Syracuse basketball's alternate blue jerseys
Syracuse basketball's alternate blue jerseys

Item: Just three times since the end of the 1975 season has Syracuse basketball played in a full blue uniform. We’re not counting the disastrous February 2014 Nike-mandated orange jersey and blue pants look, when as the number one team In the country, SU was upset in the Dome by Boston College. Only all-blue.

Jim Boeheim has always been a stickler for consistency. That includes his team’s uniforms. Sure, a throwback look is fine here and there, but it has to be white at home, orange on the road. When there’s blue in the mix, it spells trouble.

Here is a capsule look at the last three games (all defeats) that the Orange have worn blue, dating back to the program’s first Final Four appearance in 1975:

March 29, 1975 vs. Kentucky at the NCAA Final Four in San Diego

After shocking North Carolina (blue jerseys) and Kansas State (white jerseys) in the East Regional at Providence, Syracuse joined heavyweights UCLA, Louisville and Kentucky as San Diego hosted the Final Four for the first time.

As the lower-bracketed team, SU wore its road blue jerseys as they had all season away from Manley Field House. The Wildcats were simply too big and experienced for Roy Danforth’s upstart squad, as UK led 44-32 at halftime.

In a physical game with a combined 62 fouls called on both teams, Kentucky dashed any SU hopes of an upset 95-79, led by reserve Goose Givens scoring a game-high 24-points and 11-rebounds. Leading scorer Jim Lee had 23-points for the ‘Cuse.

February 28, 1988 vs. Kentucky at Rupp Arena in Lexington

“Syracuse fans are gasping. They don’t recognize these uniforms,” broadcaster Brent Musburger uttered on the Sunday afternoon CBS national telecast, referencing the Orangemen coming onto the court wearing blue uniforms as the teams prepared for the opening tipoff.

“For the first time since the mid-seventies they break out the blue,” Musburger continued. “Now, Coach Boeheim ordered them for last year, they didn’t arrive in time, so they’re wearing them for the first time since 1975. Should they lose, you’ll see them again in another 10 years,” a comment that solicited a chuckle from his broadcast partner Billy Packer.

Well, Musburger’s prediction was off by 10 years, but the blue jinx was in place. In a back-and-forth game that came down to the final Syracuse possession with 0:25 to play, Sherman Douglas missed a runner in the lane, and the Wildcats Eric Manuel raced downcourt with the rebound for a dunk to help seal a 62-58 victory.

» Related: Syracuse Orange and Team USA have had a long, rich history together

February 24, 2008 vs. Notre Dame at the Joyce Center in South Bend

Four days short of exactly 20 years between a Boeheim-coached team wearing blue, and in the first season wearing a Nike jersey style that is similar to the present “ORANGE” featured on the home whites, and “SYRACUSE” featured on the road orange jerseys, SU came out to face the Irish in a blue uniform with “SYRACUSE” across the chest also in a Sunday matinee.

The change in appearance did not help a Syracuse team that had lost three of its last four games coming into the contest, in what would eventually be an NIT season. SU trailed by as many as 16-points in the second half, falling victim to a school-record nine 3-point baskets by Kyle McAlarney.

A second half rally spurred by Arinze Onuaku and Paul Harris fell short, and Notre Dame iced the game with 12 late free throws to cement a 94-87 victory, keeping the Orange winless in blue.

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About Brad Bierman 848 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.