40 Years in the Making

By Kenny van Doren (@SidelinesCuse)

The NBA Finals are finally around the corner. The scene is set; Lakers vs. Heat. The lucky thing for Syracuse fans is that for the first time in 40 years a former Orange hooper will win a ring. That player is Dion Waiters. 

Dion played at Syracuse for two years averaging 9.7 pts, 1.9 rb, and 2 ast. He was not the huge standout that you may have thought he was, but he led a Syracuse team to the Elite Eight in his second year. Dion ended up going 4th overall to the Cavs and since then he’s jumped around from the Thunder, to the Heat and now finally a Laker. 

Dion is already an NBA Finals Champion, because he played for the Heat earlier this season. The last player to be in this situation was Anderson Varejão in 2016-2017, when he went from Cleveland to Golden State. 

Dion is only the fourth former Orange to make it the NBA Finals. Marty Byrnes was a bench player for the 1980 LA Lakers – they ended up beating the Philadelphia 76ers. Dennis Duval was a bench player for the 1975 Washington Bullets, and they ended up losing to the Golden State Warriors. Duval later became the city of Syracuse’s Police Chief. Lastly, Bill Gabor was a role player for the 1954 Syracuse Nationals that lost to the Minneapolis Lakers in 7 games.

Dion’s Wikipedia page already says this:

However, don’t expect much from Dion in the Finals. If we see the “Philly Cheese,” the Lakers must be blowing out the Heat in game 5. Either way, we’ll be happy to see a former Orange win a ring!

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Restore 44

By Kenny Van Doren, @SidelinesCuse

   

The personal and sentimental reasons behind a number might be silly to some, but an athlete’s number means more than anything. It all comes from a “look good, play good” mentality, or it comes from tradition. Players these days idolize their heroes; LeBron wears 23 because of Jordan, many MLB shortstops wear number 2 because of Jeter, etc. For Syracuse University, the number 44 was given to the starting running back for a 14 year stretch. College football legends Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little wore this number. 44 is the most historic and connected number to any college football program ever, and the Syracuse football program should bring this number back.

Tradition is what makes college football, college football. Penn State has their white out game at Happy Valley, the state of Alabama has the Iron Bowl, Mississippi the Egg Bowl, etc. Rivalries, uniforms, and numbers are exactly the kind of tradition that needs to be kept alive in college football. For the Syracuse Orange, the number 44 was first worn in 1921. Here is a list of all who wore 44:

Gifford Zimmerman, halfback, 1921

Charles Roberts, halfback, 1924

Clarence Taylor, quarterback, 1925

Don Baldwin, wide receiver, 1926

Richard Fishel, halfback, 1932

Henry Merz, quarterback, 1933

Hamilton Watt, wide receiver, 1934

Francis Mullins, halfback, 1935-36

Stanley Sanislay, wide receiver, 1937

Benjamin DeYoung, wide receiver, 1938

Francis Mazejko, guard, 1939

Richard Ransom, tackle, 1940

J. O’Brien, tackle, 1945

Robert Eberling, running back, 1952

Jim Brown, running back, 1954-56

Thomas Stephens, halfback, 1957-58

Ernie Davis, halfback, 1959-61

William Schoonover, halfback, 1962-63

Floyd Little, running back, 1964-66

Richard Panczyszyn, quarterback, 1967-69

Mandel Robinson, running back, 1977

Glen Moore, running back, 1981-82

Michael Owens, running back, 1987-89

Terry Richardson, running back, 1990-93

Rob Konrad, fullback, 1995-98

    The number is rooted in a deep history of All-Americans, NFL players, and two NFL Hall of Famers. It even has its ties to the basketball team with greats Danny Schayes, Derrick Coleman, and John Wallace wearing it. Wallace was the last to suit up in the towering 4s, even though the program retired his number earlier this year. Many fans wanted another big man to bear 44, such as the late, great Fab Melo. 

    One argument about bringing back 44 is if players can live up to the greatness that comes with the number. We may never see a Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, or Floyd Little ever again in blue and orange, but the 44 Foundation was made to honor and keep the spirit alive. Sure, they may not leave the same impact, but traditions are essential to college sports. 

44 should make its way back to the field for the Orange, and it does not even have to be the running back. Give the number to the captain of the team. Texas A&M finds a player to wear their beloved 12 each season that displays the highest level of leadership, and Syracuse should do the same. The number 44 is so sentimental to the University in many ways, so why not bring it back? Make it a number of honor and give it to the leader or hardest working player. With a number so heavily tied to some of the greatest college athletes in the 20th century, it would be an honor for any Syracuse football player to wear. Leave it up to Brown and Little, and see if they want their number to be on the backs of the future.

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Harold Gayden: Talking Football With A Legend

By Kenny Van Doren, @SidelinesCuse

This past week I got on the phone with Harold Gayden, who was a halfback for the Syracuse Orange from 1982-1986. First off, you might ask why he was there so long. In 1985, Gayden hit issues of ineligibility, so he returned in 1986 for his last season. Many might not know Gayden and for others this might be a spark of a memory, but he is known for the final touchdown in the greatest game in Syracuse football history; the win over the #1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1984.

“It was probably one of the best moments as a player,” Gayden said. “After being killed the year before.”

Five lessons the Syracuse football team should take from the 1984 ...

Head coach at the time, Dick MacPherson, would later embrace Harold Gayden for how he played in that game. Unfortunately, Coach MacPherson passed away in 2017. That year the Syracuse Orange took down #2 ranked Clemson at home in the Dome. This game was won for MacPherson; 33 years after the greatest win in program history.

“It was the first thing that came to my mind. I was watching that game,”  Gayden remarked. “I was very proud of that. Proud that we did it first though!”

Harold Gayden Jr (@GaydenJr) | Twitter

We then discussed the legacy of 44, which I’ll discuss bringing back in my next article. With the 44 Foundation and even the idea of a captain, Gayden had a great take on it: “Personally, I would really respect the opinion of the living 44s, and if they would want to bring it back.” With the greats Jim Brown and Floyd Little still with us, the program should ask them as long as they have the chance to. Even when we brought up his own number 47, we need to remember that Joe Morris, who is the all-time rushing leader, had this number retired. Also, Gayden was coming in behind at Syracuse, so there is a lot expected from a guy who follows a record holder.

“47 was a hell of a number to live up to,” Gayden chuckled.

From a guy who played 15-20 years after the great 44s, Gayden thinks a player should have to give up an established number they already have. He does bring up a great point, and that is to ask the living 44s; they made the number what it is, and they should be the ones to choose what happens next.

Syracuse football links: Remembering a 'program changer': SU's ...

The 1984 Syracuse football team is closely resembling the 2020 team. Looking at their schedule and seeing 3 ranked opponents, you would think, how are you going to beat a team like Clemson? Well, Gayden’s Orange did that. They held the #1 ranked team in the country to 9 points. Gayden had less than 60 yards that game, but a 1 yard touchdown run was all they needed to seal a game for the ages. For those who did not know the outcome of the year before: Nebraska 63 – Syracuse 7. The current Orange faced the same situation with a 41-6 loss to Clemson last season. You cannot count out the Orange; they are due for a big upset. Gayden made a great point of how big wins bring in that national attention that any program would want.

“You have to go into the games knowing you can win,” Gayden explained. “These games raise the reputation of Baber and put you over the hump of getting the talented players from high school.”

Gayden never had to worry about a season being cancelled or playing without fans, but he thinks if they are going to play, it has to be played with the highest precaution. He has the same mindset as all of us, but he knows how much medical attention these athletes receive. From a former college athlete that played in sold out stadiums and played for a huge D1 University, it is great to hear how he thinks players will adjust or how things will affect their game due to the unfortunate times in the country.

“Of course you love to hear their cheers, but you don’t get wrapped up in it.”  Gayden explained. “I think the guys can play without it.”

For a guy who has been out of football for 34 years now, I wanted to know what he misses from the game. The rivalries were different back then for Syracuse as an independent team, and to hear about the teams he never beat and the ones they would steam roll makes it seem like it was a video game. Gayden said what any other player would miss; competition and his teammates. As time goes on, he has been getting into more contact with his friends from the team. He did not have a teammate that he could say something bad about. A great thing about football is that it brings people together, it builds a family, but everything comes to an end. You have to say goodbye to the game you love and to the people that lined up next to you for all those years.

“You were brought together for 4 or 5 years,” Gayden said . “Then, you go on different paths.”

Harold Gayden is retired with his wife and dog, Charlie, in Florida. He has not returned to the Dome since November and he would love to get back up there. He has seen his Orange play a few times since he left Syracuse, but it is time to commemorate his team. A team that beat the odds, a team that overcame so much, and a team that brings hope to programs looking for that national recognition.

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