September 13, 2008 should be remembered as a glorious day in the history of Syracuse Orange football. The Express, the movie based on the life of Ernie Davis, had just had it's premiere at the Landmark Theatre. Bob Costas, Jim Brown and Floyd Little were there. Dennis Quaid and Ernie Davis portrayer Rob Brown were honorary captains for the football team. The longtime rival Penn State Nittany Lions were in town for a game that harkened back to the glory days of Syracuse Football. 40 members of the 1959 National Championship team were in the Carrier Dome. The stands were packed with 45K loud fans. It was perfect.
September 13, 2008 is actually remembered as the day we all knew for sure Syracuse Football had bottomed out. In front of a national television audience (ABC) and all of those V.I.P.s, the Orange were decimated by Penn State 55-13. A year later Joe Paterno would comment that Syracuse "didn't play with a lot of enthusiasm." This loss was just a week after the Orange lost at home by double-digits to the Akron Zips. The next week, ESPN did a piece on the fall of SU Football and just how bad things were...
Greg Robinson was fired a few weeks later and the Doug Marrone Era ushered in a brief respite from the pain. The Scott Shafer Era started off with more of the same but has since cratered out (6-15 in the last two years). Shafer is not Robinson but there are times during this season when anyone was a fan in 2008 got that old familiar feeling once again.
That brings us to this weekend, specifically November 14, 2015. That morning, Syracuse University will officially unveil Plaza 44, a space outside the new Ensley Athletic Center that will be home to nine-foot statues of Ernie Davis, Jim Brown and Floyd Little. Another statue of legendary SU coach Ben Schwartzwalder will also be debuted nearby.
SU is making the ceremony a big deal. Plenty of local dignitaries will be there. Floyd Little will once again be there. Jim Brown may or may not be there.
And just like in 2008, the ceremony is coupled with a nationally-televised football game. This time, the Orange host the No. 1 team in the nation, the undefeated Clemson Tigers. The Tigers will enter the game favored by close to four touchdowns. Given the way SU's season has been floundering, the Orange may be so lucky as to only lose by that much.
So, we're left to hope against hope that November 14, 2015 will not be remembered like September 13, 2008. I suppose it makes sense in theory to have scheduled the ceremony around this game. You had to figure it would attract eyeballs and in doing so attract attention to the statue unveiling. But you also roll the dice that all those eyeballs are merely gathering to watch you confirm what they already know: that Syracuse Football might have been good once but it ain't good anymore.
The Plaza 44 ceremony is meant to celebrate a time in the past when SU Football was great. Sadly, that lesson may be learned all too well before the day is over.