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Syracuse Football: Why Does No. 44 Need a Committee?

Another overly-complicated concept involving a rather simple idea.

I recently caught up on the Showtime series The Affair, which I highly recommend. If you don't know what it's about, it's about a writer named Noah and a waitress named Alison who have a torrid affair (obvs) and then deal with the fallout that comes after.

There's a scene about midway through the first season where Noah, who is also a teacher, is teaching a group of high school students about Romeo & Juliet. He talks about how their love is this pure, innocent thing but that it is ultimately corrupted and doomed because of the adults around them.

The lesson? "Pure love cannot sustain in an imperfect world."

I was reminded of that scene yesterday after Syracuse Athletics backed off their claim that No. 44 was "back" and continued to prattle on and on about a committee that will oversee the sanctity and purity of 44. It all seems so...overthought. So unnecessary. And it makes me think...

Why the fuck do we need a committee for 44? Why are we so hung up on this dumb idea?

As usual, Syracuse has taken a very simple idea and overcomplicated it under the guise of "we know what's best." Instead of using, you know, common sense. Not to mention an obvious example of how to handle this process that exists right under their nose:

Syracuse Lacrosse's 22.

I've said it before but, all else equal, you could make a solid case that No. 22 means more to SU Lacrosse than No. 44 means to Syracuse Football. More iconic players have worn 22 and even those who don't end up being world-beaters usually end up having proven themselves among the best players on their respective teams.

When it comes to handing out 22, there is no committee. There is no process, even. Here's how John Desko decided to given Jordan Evans, who was the No. 1 recruit in the nation at the time, the coveted jersey:

The decision to give Evans the No. 22 wasn’t a difficult one, Orange coach John Desko says. "Of all the kids we saw, we thought he had the ability to wear that number."

That's it. The guy who's job it is to make Syracuse Lacrosse as good as it can be decided to give No. 22 to the best player available in order to entice him to play for Syracuse. Done. That's the entire "process." And that process has worked pretty damn well for 30+ years.

Why should it be any more complicated than that?

Syracuse has been super shady about telling us who is on this 44 committee other than Floyd Little. That's either because they're just making it up or because they don't want to tell us because we won't like it. DOC Gross was on the committee when it was initially created and there would be a kind of perfect Syracuse Athletics irony if he, the guy who retired the number in the first place, were still on it.

Regardless, I'm going to present you with a situation involving this committee and their purpose. Let's meet back at the bottom when it's over:

Scott Shafer: Hey committee, how are you?

44 Committee: Super!

Scott Shafer: Neat. Anyway, I have this recruit. Five-star running back. One of then best in the nation. He's choosing between Alabama, Florida State, USC, Ohio State and Syracuse. The only reason we're in the running is because we've told him there's a chance he could wear No. 44 and carry on that tradition, becoming the next great Syracuse RB in the process. If we give him 44, he'll come to SU. What a recruiting and PR win that would be.

44 Committee: Well...we don't know, Scott. We feel like it would be better if he chose SU first and then, maybe after a year or two, we'll decide whether or not he's earned the right to wear it. Sorry, we're gonna say no.

Scott Shafer: Oh well! Nothing I can do. I'm gonna go run into a brick wall now.


So let's say that extremely-heightened scene is what happens. If that's the case, every single person involved should be fired. All of them. They would be working actively against Syracuse Football at that point.

Here's how it should always go down.

Scott Shafer: So I've got this recruit. He's really good. I'm going to offer him 44 so he chooses us instead of another school.

44 Committee: We don't know, Scott...

Scott Shafer: I don't really give a shit what you know. My job is on the line, not yours. I'm doing what I think is best for SU Football and if you don't like, fire me. Otherwise, sit down, shut up and enjoy your coffee cake.

(In this scenario, the 44 committee has a platter of coffee cakes in front of them. I should have mentioned that.)

Really, there's no reason to have any kind of committee or quorum or think-tank related to 44. It only makes sense in the ceremonial sense. If, after Scott Shafer (or whoever is the coach) decides to give a kid 44, the committee can bless the decision with a press release and an event, but they should have no say in how the head coach decides what's best for the team and the program.

I realize that this is all really silly and dumb and overcomplicated and there are so many other things more important to rebuilding Syracuse Football. But this whole committee thing is the perfect example of how Syracuse Athletics can take a can't-lose idea and turn it into a complicated, unnecessary chore.

44 is this simple, pure concept in Syracuse Football. It represents greatness, excellence and character. Knowing who deserves it is an easy process that involves common sense and not much else.

Not that we'd expect that from SU.