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Syracuse vs. Boston College: A Brief History

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Legend has it that, during the American Revolution, a group of Minutemen from Boston, referring to themselves as God's Dainty Eagles, were passing through the Onondaga Nation en route to a battle. They were approached by the natives, who requested a truce. The Eagles accepted. The two groups dined and shared stories and began a kinship. Trinkets were exchanged, pelts offered and muskets gifted. The Dainty Eagles swore to the tribe that they would remain brothers for all of time.

Some days later, word came in that the southern Native American tribes, the Seminoles and the Ho'ok'ie of Virginia (technically), were looking for someone to join them in adventure. In a shocking decision, the Dainty Eagles decided to up and leave the Onondagans with little notice. The truce had been broken.

From that day forward, the "orange men" of Onondaga vowed to hate all Eagles of Boston who ever set foot on their land. The Eagles, who did not appreciate this, declared "dainty war," as was their custom, on the Natives. This involved a series of hand slaps and high-pitched whines meant to annoy, and later became the basis for the Boston College Fight Song. That war has been brewing in the years since and continues to this day.

True story.


Between 1961 and 2004, Syracuse and Boston College played each other in football every season except two ('68, '70). Over that span the only two teams the Orange faced more often were Pitt and West Virginia.

The Orange lead the overall series 28-17 and dominated it from 1987 until it ended in 2004, but that doesn't make it unmemorable.

SU and BC rekindle that rivalry this Saturday in the first of nine games between now and 2020. Whether future contests will be season-enders like this one remains to be seen, but it's a perfect way to get things going again. No one goes around telling stories about epic Orange-Eagle games, but that doesn't mean there wasn't real hatred between the two fanbases.

Things got off to an inauspicious start in 1924. Pappy Waldorf, Jack McBride and Mordecai Starobin led a stout Syracuse team over Boston College 10-0 in the middle of an 8-2 season. Here's an old-timey recap of the game from Time:

Syracuse's big team, discovering a power hitherto concealed, downed Boston College 10 to 0, on a touchdown and field goal scored by Fullback McBride. The Orange team was superior in every department of the game except kicking.

The win was the 200th victory in Syracuse football history.

The two teams would not play again for twenty years, likely so the Orange had time to work on that kicking game. In 1944 they faced off in Boston's Fenway Park, though this time the Eagles were better prepared. BC beat a down-and-out Orangemen squad 19-12.

Twelve years later the two decided to tangle again. Back in Syracuse, the Orangemen got back to doing what they did best...beating up Eagles. They won 24-14 to kickoff their 8-2 Orange Bowl season.

It was also around this point the two schools decided they should make a regular thing of this. And so they did, starting in 1961. In that game, Ernie Davis scored two touchdowns, amassed 203 yards and surpassed Jim Brown in total career yardage en route to the Heisman Trophy.


The Orange dominated the series until 1969, when BC won the first of three-straight games, the only time they'd do that in the series. That gave way to what was The Even Steven Era of the rivalry. Between 1973 and 1986, neither team won more than two games in a row and the series was tied 7-7. That includes the years Doug Marrone played for the Orange, in which they went 2-1.

Then in 1987, Syracuse entered it's second Golden Era and re-commenced dominating, winning six in a row and ten of the next twelve. Amongst the Eagles' two wins was a hard-fought 1993 victory thanks to a tipped interception with a minute to play. Both teams had joined the Big East Conference but the Orangemen were playing at a higher level for the most part.

The Eagles got back between '99 and '02, winning three of the four games, including the '99 affair on a late field goal. Then the Orange got back in the won column with a 39-14 win in 2003.

In 2004 it had been announced that Boston College would be leaving the Big East for the ACC. Initially it was expected that Syracuse would go with them but ultimately the Orange stayed with the Big East. In their final season in the conference, the Eagles were putting themselves in prime position to go out as league champion. All that stood between them in the final week of play was a banged up 5-6 Syracuse team. No big deal, right?

Syracuse won the game 43-17 and The Legend of Diamond Ferri was born.

With that, the rivalry ended. And rightfully so, it ended with a Syracuse victory.

So here we are, all these years later. The programs find themselves in different places than usual. The Orange are only just beginning to climb out of the basement while the Eagles are in the midst of a slightly-disappointing season. Both teams want the win in order to reclaim their place not only in their own conferences but also in the rivalry.

And if the rivalry wasn't personal before, it is now. Shockingly, Doug Marrone's wife is a Boston College grad.

"It is a rivalry within my home," he said. "My wife is rooting for Syracuse, I can promise you that. But a lot of her friends are Boston College graduates and a lot of her friends are ex-Boston College football players, who are obviously my friends, with their families. They’ll be sitting in the upper decks."

Giddy up.