clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

#Restore44: Syracuse Should Only Give 44 to a Player That's EARNED It

Hey, let's bring back 44... but only give it to players that EARN IT.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We all (almost all) want Syracuse football to start using the number 44 again. I mean, even Floyd Little, who himself has worn the number 44, wants to bring it on back into the rotation for some new Syracuse player to carry on the legacy and continue its growth and evolution over time. And he -- and all of us -- should! Memories and histories and traditions live on because they're continually brought into your consciousness; passed down from fan to fan, generation to generation to expand upon the history and maybe even create some myth too while they're at it. Syracuse's 44 deserves that, and deserves it now more than ever with a program struggling to reestablish its relevance a bit.

But the problem (other than the fact that it's currently retired) is... some people want to just give it to ANYONE who walks in the door. Well, not "anyone" necessarily. That's blasphemy. But new recruits. Ones who show a special sort of promise or spark that they could potentially deliver on the legacy of Syracuse's most storied uniform number and help expand its reach to new generations of Syracuse fans so they can touch it and feel it and understand it for themselves.

Sorry, but: NOOOOOOOOOO.

Sure, 44 was given to other players without them "earning it" first. That was before it was retired, though. Now 10 years after the number was officially taken out of circulation, it has to come back with a bang. With a player who's already done the work to be considered in conversations with past 44s -- from Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Little, to more recent 44s like Rob Konrad. They don't need to be hall-of-famers like a some of those names. They just need to have proven themselves to be a truly excellent athlete and an asset to the Orange football program (and its fans). And THEN they earn the right to wear 44. What happens after that is entirely up to them, and if they've really "proven" they deserved the number to begin with, chances are desperate-for-success Orange fans will be okay with the result.

Previous Syracuse players who have "earned it" -- at least in theory -- have said they wanted no part of the number. Former SU bruiser Jerome Smith, in particular, said in the summer of 2013 that he wanted nothing to do with it. But that is with the number currently retired. In actual circulation/use, you'd think the mood changes drastically. The aura around 44 becomes less of a legend or a ghost, and more of an attainable goal (see the use of 22 in lacrosse). Suddenly, players are clamoring to be good enough to wear it by the time they've reached their senior years. New players show up on campus with the desire to wear it each fall, but understand that its history makes them wait their respective turn. The Orange athletic department tells them when they arrive, "do well and the honor of belonging to this elite group can be yours." And those who are worthy of the number rise to the top, don the number and succeed.

That success may be varied and different and at times, even contrasting. But it'll be there because the trickle-down effect of 44's importance will change the fabric of the players brought in the door, and then the ones who proceed to do well in orange blue platinum.

***

If you're worried about how to keep 44 intact as an honor and a privilege, isn't this the ONLY way to bring it back? We all know how much of a crapshoot (football, especially) recruiting can be sometimes. A kid from Whereversville, USA, who's never played a down in college puts on a number and literally anything can happen. But a player two or three years into his career with the Orange, after a couple high-quality seasons under his belt... much higher chance that guy delivers on some sort of potential, living up to wearing 44. There's another article coming later today proving just how frequently experienced players could have actually delivered on the weighty expectations after being given the number, believe it or not. Spoiler alert: was a significant amount.

Maybe I'm not on the small committee for the number, which at this point is just Little and Brown (also included DOCTOR Gross when he was AD). But if I were approached about the topic (and if I have my way, I will be), this would be the one and only solution that truly keeps everyone happy. Traditionalists? Check. "Radicals" looking to take it out of the rafters? Check. Previous 44s that stand to benefit from the number staying prestigious? Check, again.

I'm just trying to be a people-pleaser here, gang. Now humor me and admit this is the way forward.

#RESTORE(EFFING)44!!!

(and if you want to see some OTHER way to handle this, I'd recommend reading Sean's piece on the other side of this topic as well)