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Syracuse sports ‘what ifs’: You can only pick three

We love “what ifs” around here, so let’s discuss a few.

Syracuse vs Eastern Michigan Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images

One of the more fun parts of Syracuse Orange fandom — in my opinion, anyway — is our obsession with “what ifs.” Every fan base has them, but ours become potentially more pronounced because we have just one title in both football and basketball, plus a bunch of near-misses to go with those.

Now, with little else to talk about, these near-misses and alternate timelines can take center stage, though. Today, we talk about them using a framing device from the The Midday 180 on Nashville’s 104.5.

The concept is simple: We give you 16 “what if” propositions, and you’re only allowed to pick three of them. The Midday 180 used all Nashville- and Tennessee-specific ones, obviously. And some of those have larger consequences than others (like, is there a large faction of people that would prefer the Titans were named the Nashville Titans?).

For us, we also tried to focus on things both large and small (though mostly large), and from a variety of timeframes to encompass most of the Syracuse fandom. Only two of these cancel each other out, so obviously you have to avoid those.

To the graphic, and then we’ll spell them all out quick. These are all at least remotely plausible, to help make this a little tougher for people, since you’re limited to just three selections:

1. Michael Vick goes to Syracuse

Before Vick was a star at Virginia Tech, he wanted to go to SU — then wanted to create his own legacy, vs. being a successor to Donovan McNabb. You have to wonder what might have been for the Orange(men) if he’d wound up on the Hill.

2. Pat Dye doesn’t go for the tie

Does Syracuse have a more legitimate claim to a split 1987 national title at 12-0 than they do at 11-0-1? Probably.

3. Keith (Effing) Smart doesn’t hit the shot

Unlike the previous option, this one directly results in an assured national championship for Jim Boeheim and the men’s basketball program. A lot probably changes as a result.

4. Fab Melo plays in the 2012 NCAA Tournament

The 2012 team was pretty damn impressive, and still nearly made the Final Four without the star center. Personally, still think they should’ve just rolled the dice and gotten hit with whatever penalties came later, since the NCAA came after SU pretty hard anyway.

5. Arinze Onuaku doesn’t get hurt in 2010

This hurts me more because that season was my senior year at SU. That squad was a force, and seemed destined to at least make the Final Four and possibly take home that season’s title given the competition. Instead, we wound up with Duke vs. Butler.

6. Jim Brown wins Heisman Trophy

This changes more for Brown and opportunities for black players than it does for Syracuse, necessarily. Still, important.

7. Don McPherson wins Heisman Trophy

Wait, didn’t he?

8. Syracuse goes to ACC in 2004/05

Syracuse was set to go along with Miami and Boston College during the first Big East raid, then Virginia Governor Mark Warner stepped in and got the Hokies moved ahead of them. The Orange eventually joined, obviously, but who knows what SU could’ve done with the extra cash and exposure on the football front in the meantime.

9. Jim Boeheim keeps his official wins count

At least, in the mind of the NCAA. We all know the real number here.

10. Syracuse keeps the 1990 men’s lacrosse title

The main result is that we remove one of the more interesting pieces of history for ‘Cuse sports, and the “missing trophy” never becomes the legend it is. No one cares about the title being stripped already — including the NCAA, which accidentally notes our 11 titles all the time.

11. Mike Hopkins stays as coach-in-waiting

While results have been hot and cold at Washington, Hop’s done really well on the recruiting trail with the Huskies while Syracuse has struggled a bit there in his absence. Would keeping him on staff have meant better results these past few years?

12. Syracuse stays in Big East

Can’t pick this one if you pick SU going to the ACC early. I know there are plenty of you that would prefer this, despite the disastrous results for Orange football.

13. Carmelo Anthony stays four years

‘Melo was able to lead a young team to a championship in year one on campus. With many of those key pieces remaining, and an increased draw for talent, what does Carmelo staying four years do for the Orange program?

14. Syracuse hires someone other than GERG

SU hiring Greg Robinson effectively kneecapped the football program for two decades, save a few positive blips. You have to wonder if we’d hired anyone else, what could’ve been.

15. Brandon Triche charge not called

First off, it wasn’t a charge, so this is what should’ve happened to begin with. No charge there potentially puts Syracuse in the title game against a Louisville team whose championship has now been stripped. So... title for us?

16. Doug Marrone never leaves “dream job”

When Marrone arrived at SU, he said it was his “dream job” — then left after four seasons and a .500 record to go coach the Buffalo Bills. Before he left, though, he was well on his way to upgrading the talent level of Orange football. What could’ve happened if he was able to finish the job?


Who’s your three? Make your selections and add a rationalization below if you want.