Legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis passed away at the age of 82 last night. And while he will forever be associated with the Raiders, and rightfully so, Syracuse fans remember that he was one of us as well.
Davis was the wildly-successful, crazy uncle of the Syracuse Orange alumni. We all gathered to talk about how kooky he was but we also admired his single-minded focus to succeed at what he was doing.
Davis graduated from SU with a bachelor of arts degree in English from Syracuse in 1950. He had tried out for the football team but had been cut before getting the chance to suit up (He did apparently play JV football and basketball for the Orangemen). According to Bud Poliquin, Al would sit in the stands and study Ben Schwartzwalder as he coached the Orange to victory, Al's first lesson in running a football team.
Davis' college roommate, Bernie Custis, was a barrier-breaking African-American QB for the Orangemen and later in the CFL. For years, Davis offered coaching jobs to Custis, who politely declined.
Al Davis received a Letterman of Distinction Award from Syracuse University. He is one of seven Syracuse alums in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the only one not there for playing.
If you don't think Davis was too involved in Syracuse's football program in recent years, keep in mind that he requested and received a meeting with Doug Marrone when HCDM made his grand tour after being announced as head coach. Even if he was silent, he was a Syracuse supporter to the end.