If you take nothing else away from the mess that Syracuse Athletics has made of the Number 44 debacle, please take away the concept of communication. Making sure everyone involved is on the same page, or at least aware of the situation and has had a chance to voice their full opinion. Because every time you don't do that, you're asking for trouble.
Case in point: What's going on with No. 44 right now.
You know the story. Syracuse Athletics held a press conference in which Scott Shafer, Pete Sala and Floyd Little all said "44 is back." The retired number would once again be in play for a star RB to wear. Soon after, BoT member Donovan McNabb made a stink, followed by media folks who had no real understanding of the number's value, and SU had to formally backtrack on everything in a weird "nothing to see here!" way. Noticeably absent from the initial event, Jim Brown then went on a radio show and said he didn't endorse the decision and that he didn't speak to anyone before the decision was made, which only strengthened the backlash against it.
And here we are. What I know I've been waiting for is Floyd Little's rebuttal to Jim Brown. While Brown is the more well-known 44, Little is the one with the stronger connection to the university. He's also much more likable and relatable. Right now, the two of them are on opposite sides of the discussion. And Little is finally talking about his side.
"We spoke on the phone and, what he said was, 'I'll roll with you.'" Little recounted. "'Whatever you want to do Floyd, I'll roll with you.'"
Little said a final decision hadn't been made until Brown didn't object. Asked to clarify, Little said: "I called him before there was any decision made."
"Like Jim said, I think, during his television interview, he really didn't give his blessing," Little said. "He didn't necessarily give his blessing. He did say, 'I'll roll with you. Whatever you decide, I'm OK with.'"
As Chris Carlson notes, what we're left with is a showdown of semantics. How do we measure the value of a "blessing" versus an "endorsement?" Should SU have gotten an "understanding" instead? Or how about Brown's "consent?" Did we need "approval?"
And that even extends to the current status of 44 itself. Is it retired? Unretired? Active? Inactive? Restored? Unrestored? Does anyone have any clue what's going on?
We've been down this road so many times with SU Athletics lately. They take the path of least resistance and it ends up biting them in the ass. They don't put the proper checks and balances in place and then Roosevelt Bouie becomes Roosevelt Bowie. They tell a sculptor to make an Ernie Davis statue and then don't care enough to make sure it's not a monument to a corporation before unveiling it. Instead of having an official sit-down or meeting with Jim Brown, they have Little call him while he's golfing and base their huge decision on the outcome of that without bothering to follow up.
I'm telling you, it's not the people, it's the culture. A culture of "whatever." A culture of "good enough." And that's why we are where we are. And that's why you probably won't see 44 back on the field anytime soon now.