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Syracuse Fans, What Was Your First Game in the Carrier Dome Like?

How did your Syracuse fandom begin...and how the hell are you still here?

Rich Barnes

Last week, an impromptu discussion on Twitter between Syracuse Orange fans ended with talk of everyone's first game experience in the Carrier Dome. It occurred to me that no matter when everyone went to the Dome for the first time, be five years ago for twenty-five years ago, the story always seemed to revolve around one fact:

Syracuse lost the damn game.

Obviously, that's not actually true, but it was fun nonetheless to hear everyone's story of their initial Dome experience and how it seemed to be a measuring stick of miserable outcomes that were to follow. Such is the life of a Syracuse fan, I suppose.

So, I asked everyone over here to share the story of their first game in the Carrier Dome. Could be a football game, could be a basketball game. Here's what we came up with and I welcome you to share your own experience in the comments below. If it was a L, share in the misery. If it was a W, well, lucky you...


Sean Keeley (copying from when I first wrote this in 2010)

September 7th, 1996 - The first time I ever stepped foot in the Dome for a football game. Syracuse vs. North Carolina. The building was packed. As freshman, the five guys and myself that had formed an initial friendship were scattered throughout the student section. That changed real quick when we all did the ticket-tricker and found our way into the ninth row on the side of the endzone. Sure it was rude to those around us, but, that's your fault for not being sneaky enough to move up yourselves. We didn't know most of the players and weren't truly emotionally invested in the team yet, but that hardly mattered. The game might have ended in a loss but there was no doubt in my mind I was going to be a life-long Orange fan after that.

Matt McClusky

Believe it or not but my first-ever experience at the Carrier Dome was a Syracuse win in basketball. The Orange dominated Wagner, yup, Wagner, and I still fell in love with the dome and with basketball. 1990: The year of bright colors, strange-awesome rap and Billy Owens. In fact, my first few dome games were all victories for the Orange. Remember, those were loaded teams back then! I picked a pretty good time to start liking Syracuse athletics -- although a couple of years later things changed dramatically.

As for football, I was lucky there, too. Well, kind of lucky. Syracuse opened '93 with a run-of-the-mill win over Ball State. We had season tickets and I couldn't believe how loud the dome was for football. It was an opening season blow out for a top-ten team! Unfortunately, a little like the probation slap in hoops, it wouldn't take long for Paul Pasqualoni to shift the positive to the negative.

The more I think of it, the more Syracuse athletics really suckered me into this whole damn thing.

Dan Lyons

Syracuse didn't have a home game until my third week on campus as a freshman in 2008, and while a season-opening loss at Northwestern was a bit disheartening to watch on TV from my Shaw Hall dorm room, and I was aware how bad the team had been under coach Greg Robinson, I really had no idea. Expecting a competitive crowd to get a decent seat for my first game of BIG TIME DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL for our season opener, I got to the Dome hours ahead of the 3:30 kick-off. I expected there to be a huge line, as free tickets had been distributed to freshmen (I already had season tickets, natch), and eventually a sizable one formed, as happens for first games with excited, perhaps somewhat naive freshmen. Me? I got there way too early. This would become a theme in my Syracuse fandom… little did I know that a few months later I’d be sleeping outside for a week for front row seats to Syracuse vs. Louisville basketball.

Anyway, we get inside, we wait and wait, piped in music is played, Rob Long tries to hit the ceiling as he warms up for the day. Eventually, the team runs out and is greeted by a half-full Dome crowd. The game starts, and a team of MAC also-rans with Kangaroos on their helmets absolutely bludgeon my Orange for three hours.

My first game at the Dome was the Akron game. It is a miracle that I still speak to you all today.

Jared Smith

My first Syracuse football game in the Carrier Dome was at the age of 13 in 1999 when the Orangemen defeated the Temple Owls, 27-10. My grandfather took myself and my brother (age 10) to the game, as a part of his dual ticket package for the Michigan Wolverine game. I do not remember much about the game, but I remember a few things about the experience.

First, we had end zone seats in the upper decks. Before this game, I had gone to a few Buffalo Bills games with crappy seats and I remember thinking that the Carrier Dome seats were pretty good. Seemed that no matter where you sat you could see the game pretty well.

Also, I believe my mother and just started dating my now stepfather, who worked for Coyne Textile Services at the time and the business had a box suite that we actually got to go into for a bit. I thought that was sooooo cool. They had a lot of food and all this free merchandise that you could.

Invisible Swordsman

My Carrier Dome game? Sept 20, 1980 - Syracuse 36, Miami (OH) 20

Yup, I was there from the beginning at the tender age of ten! Nine months earlier, my father had accepted a job at SU and we moved ourselves from Boulder, CO to the Syracuse area. Avid college football fans, my parents had practically raised my siblings and I at Colorado's Folsom Field, complete with majestic views of the Rocky Mountains and annual drubbings at the hands of Nebraska and Oklahoma. It was culture shock to go from a beautiful outdoor setting and Big 8 football to a domed stadium facing teams I had hardly heard of like Temple and Rutgers. But there we were on opening night, and it was nothing like I had ever experienced: It was state of the art! It was loud!! It was...F#%*@ng hot as hell in there!!!

34 years on and I don't remember too much from that first game other than we tried to onside kick the opening kickoff (it failed...our special teams apparently weren't that good in the 80's either), a little running back named Joe Morris was all kinds of awesome, and any time SU made a big play, the noise levels inside The Dome were nothing like I had ever heard. Oh, and we won! Good times...good times...

Matt Glaude

September 5, 1998 - #10 Tennessee 34, #17 Syracuse 33

There was the bogus fourth down pass interference call on Will Allen (called by the back judge that should have been shot out of a cannon), the ridiculous uniform violations penalties on Syracuse from the SEC officials, and everyone just happy that power was on in the Carrier Dome after the Labor Day storms rolled through campus the weekend prior. What a freakin' mess despite the fact that Donovan McNabb was doing his best to drag the team to a top 10 win.

That game ended up being a microcosm of the entire athletic calendar: The football team went 8-4 (I still don't know how NC State smoked them in Raleigh); the basketball team bowed out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round after losing to Oklahoma State in Indianapolis (the team went 21-12 and lost to Ohio -- not Ohio State, Ohio -- in the Carrier Classic); and the lacrosse team had its Final Four streak seriously in jeopardy before snapping into form in the NCAA Tournament and starting a tour of revenge, eventually falling to Virginia in the title game. Everything was black and pain.

Michael Burke

​I went to my first Syracuse football game...wait for it...five weeks ago. Yes, THAT game. You know, when the Orange probably should have lost to Villanova. I'm not from the Syracuse area -- I was born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, where I graduated from high school this past June. But I'm now a freshman at Syracuse and, fortunately, I have football and basketball season tickets.

I assume that, for most of you, the ‘Nova game will forever be a bad memory. An FCS team was a 25-yard field goal away from spoiling opening night for the Orange, and Syracuse fans had a right to feel embarrassed.

But, personally, I’ll always have fond memories of that night. I’ll remember being happily shocked when Chris Gough missed that chip shot of a field goal. I’ll remember thinking "NO, NO, NO, NO!" when it became apparent, in the second overtime, that Syracuse was attempting a fake field goal -- and then thinking "YES, YES, YES!" when Riley Dixon made the play of his life. I’ll remember the elation I felt when Villanova’s two-point conversion attempt on the ensuing possession failed, clinching Syracuse’s win.

And, most of all, I’ll remember it as the night I officially became a Syracuse fan. Having not grown up in the Syracuse area, I was not raised to be an Orange supporter. At the risk of being labeled the most disloyal of disloyal idiots, I’ll even admit I rooted against the Orange when they were upset by the Dayton Flyers this past March in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. I have family from the Dayton area, and I hadn’t yet made my college decision -- I was actually leaning towards Mizzou.

That Friday night, however, I rooted as hard for Syracuse as I do for any of my other favorite teams. And while it wasn’t perfect, witnessing a double-overtime win -- albeit against Villanova -- is a memory I will always cherish.

John Cassillo

My first Syracuse football game is one that everyone's already heard plenty about, but I'll rehash a bit anyway: Iowa 20, Syracuse 13 (2OT).

Excited for my first home game as a freshman, I got myself to the Carrier Dome early that day... as in there at 9 a.m. for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff early. What a goddamn mistake. And honestly, who would've known that my first Syracuse football game would be a microcosm of my four years of watching that team on campus? The Hawkeyes were ranked 15th in the country (they'd finish 6-7, however). Syracuse hung with them all game, much to everyone's surprise, but the thing we'll always remember about this is what happened in overtime. THE GAME WAS WON! I can't stress this enough, and anyone who was there that day or watched on TV would say the same. I was planning my strategy for rushing the field, ready with legions of other wide-eyed freshman. Maybe you, reader, were one of them too. But SEVEN consecutive plays from inside the 2-yard line resulted in nothing for Syracuse. NOOOOTTTHINNGGG. If you want to know how your current profanity-prone, ALL-CAPS enjoying blogger came to be, look no further than this game. And blame Greg Robinson. And Iowa. Definitely Iowa.

Lisa Nelson

I have no idea if my first Syracuse-in-the-Dome experience was a win. I know it was a basketball game and I loved every second, though. This is what I remember: it was loud, I almost got lost in the sea of people, and Mom and Gram had to hold me by the arms to make sure the windy doors didn't carry me away into the night as we left. Did I mention I was 5 years old, and weighed 35 pounds? Best day ever.

Sean Farrell

Nov. 10, 2007 – USF 41, Syracuse 10

By the time I reached my seat, Syracuse was already losing. A fitting introduction to Syracuse football, I suppose.

The I-81 traffic kept my parents and I (then 15) from getting to the Carrier Dome on time. The Bulls returned the opening kickoff into Orange territory and about a minute into the game, they scored the first touchdown. It didn’t get any better in what turned out to be Cameron Dantley’s first game as a starter. Matt Grothe destroyed the Syracuse defense and the fans started filing out by the start of the fourth quarter. I sat in front of a pair of older SU fans, who were so disgusted and sickened by what they were watching. Their level of anger outmatches anything even the comment section can provide. As I would find out later, the GERG era did that to a lot of people.

Probably, the only positive from the game was watching Larry Csonka’s jersey retirement at halftime. You’d think that a game like that would turn me off of Syracuse. But that day, the first time I’d ever set foot on campus, solidified my love for the university and the Carrier Dome experience. Bad quarterbacking? Check. Bad coaching? Check. An irritable fan base? Check. It was everything a young Jets fan could ever ask for.


For the record, the TNIAAM crew is 4-5 on outcomes we remember. How about you?