Former Syracuse athletics director Jake Crouthamel passed away at the age of 84 on Monday. He was Syracuse’s AD from 1978 through 2005, and oversaw several milestones for the athletics program, including the opening of the Carrier Dome in 1980, and golden eras in Syracuse basketball, football and lacrosse.
I first met Jake back in 1992 when we started The Big Orange (later The Juice), an independent publication devoted to the coverage of Syracuse University athletics. We sat in his office surrounded by a plume of smoke (Jake loved his cigarettes) to discuss our new endeavor.
He didn’t say much, nodded his head and wished us luck. I wasn’t sure what to think of our initial meeting, but looking back, he truly wanted us to succeed and was always supportive. Through the years, I got to know Jake.
Two memories come to mind that embodied his personality—intense—and dry sense of humor.
During football games, Jake sat in the first row of the pressbox next to Joe Szombathy, Director of the Orange Pack.
I was always in the second row to his left. Every game, Jake would have a cup of coffee (at least that’s what I think it was) and he would stir it feverishly—maybe a nervous type of energy.
A bad play by the Orange, and Jake would pound his fist on the table. Joe’s expressions were sometimes better than watching the game.
One game, Jake was so upset, he picked up his chair and threw it. It didn’t hit anyone, and really didn’t go far, but it was enough that people took notice.
Said Joe after the game:”Next game I’m sitting next to you, Judy.”
A second anecdote came to mind when I heard the news.
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I was covering the Insight.com Bowl in Phoenix in 2001. We were at the bar at the team hotel and we were planning to get up early the next morning to climb Camelback Mountain.
We asked Jake if he wanted to join us. He asked what time, and we told him to be in the hotel lobby at 6:30 a.m. We didn’t think he was going to show, but he did.
The Mountain was about two miles from our hotel so we got into two cars and drove over. We started the trek and Jake, with cigarette in his mouth, followed along.
We got to about the two mile point of the mountain, and realized that Jake wasn’t behind us. We continued and figured he may have turned back and was waiting for us. We made it to the top and headed back down. We never saw him.
We got back to the cars and on the windshield of one of them he left us a note. The best part about the note was it wasn’t on paper. He took the time to gather some stones, and small pebbles and wrote “Went Back To Hotel.”
Thanks for the memories, Jake. The clouds had an Orange tint to it today.
Judy Salamone is the former editor and publisher of The Big Orange/The Juice publication, and has covered Syracuse University athletics since 1988.