I know, everyone’s doing it. But we at TNIAAM felt we had to contribute our own Syracuse Orange decade in review and remember the good and not so good times.
Overall Department High: Men’s & Women’s Final Fours in 2016
This was the culmination of the identity the Orange wanted to fortify by moving to the ACC; An elite basketball institution, buoyed by impact freshmen recruits but with a roster that included upperclassmen who developed over several years. Both teams fit that description, and both teams had incredibly memorable tournament runs. So yeah, this is definitely the high water mark even if neither team won the whole thing.
Overall Department Low: NCAA Sanctions
What makes success better? When it comes immediately after adversity. The Orange self-suspended the men’s basketball team from the postseason in 2015, and accepted scholarship reductions. The whole NCAA investigation was a prolonged blip over the athletic department, and one can draw a straight line from these sanctions to the eventual turnover that saw Syracuse have 3 Athletic Directors in the span of 2 years.
Football High: 10-Win Season in 2018
There are many of us (raises hand) who would love Syracuse to be a “football school,” and the 2018 season gave all fans a brief look at what a modern, very good, Syracuse program could look like. Sure, in retrospect, the Orange were an above average team taking advantage of a down ACC, but in the moment, close games versus the two ACC divisional champions had fans thinking of the most pie in the sky what ifs. The season was capped with a bowl victory over former/current rivals West Virginia, in a game they didn’t care about nearly as much as the Orange. A win secured the first 10 win season since 2001 and proof of concept that Syracuse football can compete in the ACC.
Football Low: Doug Marrone’s Departure
After taking his “Dream Job” at Syracuse, former player Doug Marrone took a program on life support from GERG (Greg Robinson for the younglings here) and performed the miracle of winning two bowl games (both Pinstripe Bowls) and a share of the 2012 Big East Conference title, even if it was split 4 ways. When the NFL came calling from down I-90, Marrone took the Buffalo Bills job, leading to some vitriol from ‘Cuse fans, many of whom who now be rooting for Marrone on Sundays. The whole saga was messy and led to another backwards step for football that wouldn’t see 8+ wins again until 2018.
Olympic Sports High: 2015 National Championships
While the athletic department dealt with basketball sanctions in the Spring, that Fall, the Orange Men’s Cross Country and Women’s Field Hockey teams made history by winning National Championships. For XC, it was their first title in 64 years, led by some kid named Justyn Knight, who would go on to break so many records at Syracuse. Field Hockey’s championship was the first in program history, and carried the special significance of being the first ever women’s national championship in ‘Cuse history.
Olympic Sports Low: Men’s Soccer Early Exit to Georgetown in 2014
The 2014-15 Syracuse men’s soccer teams may be the best in program history, and I personally hold that 2014 is the best team, period. Local star and future Toronto FC stater Alex Bono in goal may be the biggest name, but the team was filled with stars including Julian Buescher, Skyler Thomas, and Chris Nanco. The team was deep, could play with anyone, and went 16-4, never losing by more than 1 goal. Unfortunately, a tough tournament draw sent them on the road for their second game, and they lost 2-1, in sudden death. To Georgetown.
I feel like these were the absolute peaks and valleys, but share which moments I left out that clearly should be on here. This was a crazy defining decade for Syracuse sports, and there was so much that happened, I know you all have your own opinions.