Relive the 10 most impactful Syracuse sports moments of the decade

first_img Published on December 5, 2019 at 12:41 am In the last 10 years, SU hired its first black football head coach, made three combined Final Fours between the men’s and women’s basketball teams and won the school’s first-ever national championship by a women’s team.There have been highs — upsetting No. 2 Clemson in the Carrier Dome — and lows, like Boeheim’s 101 vacated wins due to NCAA-imposed sanctions.As the decade comes to an end, relive Syracuse athletics’ 10 most impactful stories, written by the reporters who covered them in the moment, in chronological order.2011: Associate head coach Bernie Fine fired amid sexual abuse allegations This was certainly the most enthralling storyline during my years at The Daily Orange. There were often times when sports bled into news and garnered the attention of the public at-large, like Syracuse’s decision to leave the Big East for the ACC, but nothing quite compared to the Bernie Fine saga — especially on the heels of everything happening at Penn State. Our staff of writers and editors worked tirelessly to explore every angle of the story during what was supposed to be our Thanksgiving break.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFor some, this represented a first experience with cold calls and knocking on doors in homage to the grassroots of journalism. For others, this was a chance to lead the younger staff members through arguably the strongest learning experience of their careers. In the subsequent weeks, The Daily Orange broke several stories related to Fine as our reporting was thrust into national relevancy. There were television appearances on CNN and HLN, a trip to Maine to visit accuser Zach Tomaselli and a meeting with the county’s district attorney for an exclusive story in which The Daily Orange heard audio of police interviews previously withheld from reporters. Those were the moments that reinforced our journalistic prowess during the days we’ll never forget.-Michael Cohen2011: Syracuse joins the Atlantic Coast Conference In September of 2011, the Orange saw a whole lot of green and announced the university was leaving its longtime home in the Big East for the more stable ACC.The move – with Pittsburgh making the same jump – was part of a major realignment in college sports, as schools sought conferences with lucrative TV deals capable of bolstering finances for years to come.The ACC had that. In 2010, the conference signed a 12-year deal with ESPN worth $1.86 billion, an agreement that was later extended in length and value with the addition of SU and Pitt.Meanwhile, the Big East’s TV deal with ESPN was worth $216 million over six years. Negotiations ensued as that deal neared expiration, but the Big East in 2011 rejected a nine-year, $1.4 billion deal with ESPN. Many believe that agreement could’ve been the glue that kept the Big East together.While the Big East was dealt a major blow, Syracuse would benefit from increased exposure and larger revenue streams in the ACC. With Syracuse, the ACC — aside from gaining its first school with on-campus beer sales at home games — was able to expand its geographic footprint and boost its leverage in future TV negotiations.ACC revenue jumped 11% in the 2018 fiscal year, with each member school reportedly getting, on average, a distribution of $29.5 million.While that distribution ranked near the bottom among Power 5 conferences, the launch of ACC Network this past August could change that.-Jon Harris2013: Syracuse men’s basketball makes Final Four run Syracuse’s run to the Final Four in 2013 really came out of nowhere. The Orange badly struggled toward the end of the regular season, losing four of its final five games. That included two losses to Georgetown, one being an embarrassing blowout in Washington. Syracuse was limping into the postseason, and there were swirling questions about Jim Boeheim’s future. Those questions peaked when, after a blowout loss to the Hoyas, Boeheim said he was ready to go play golf somewhere. Joking or not, it fueled speculation.No one really expected much from Syracuse in the postseason. We all know what happened next. A run through the last “real” Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, including an overtime win over Georgetown in the semifinals before a loss to Louisville in the final. Then the Orange’s 2-3 zone befuddled team after team in the NCAA Tournament, as Syracuse bounced Montana, Cal, Indiana and Marquette before its run ended with a loss to Michigan in the Final Four.It was the program’s first appearance in the Final Four since a lanky-limbed, headband-wearing freshman named Carmelo Anthony guided the program to its only national championship in 2003. The surprising run marked Boeheim’s fourth Final Four in four different decades, a lofty accomplishment that ended a lot of questions about how long he could continue to coach.-Chris Iseman, Michael Cohen2015: NCAA finds Jim Boeheim failed to promote compliance with rules, imposes sanctionsThe news came down on the Friday before spring break.Editors were on planes and beat writers were on their way to Saturday’s regularly scheduled men’s basketball game. Still, the biggest news of our time at The Daily Orange needed to be covered.The NCAA released a 94-page report on March 6, 2015 detailing wrongdoing by Syracuse and men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim, punishing the university with a five-year probation, scholarship reductions, vacation of wins and a nine-game suspension for Boeheim. SU had already self-imposed a postseason ban for that year and the NCAA – unlike with other schools’ violations – didn’t hit Syracuse with any other postseason bans.Still, the fallout was swift. We covered every aspect of the report, including an index of every violation for readers to understand.Less than two weeks after the report’s release, Chancellor Kent Syverud announced that Daryl Gross was out as athletic director and Boeheim would be retiring with Mike Hopkins as the head coach in waiting.As we all know, that didn’t happen. Boeheim and his more than 1,000* wins are still in charge at SU while Hopkins leads a rising Washington program.-Justin Mattingly 2015: Dino Babers becomes first black head coach in SU football historyDino Babers is considered an up-and-coming coach around the college football world, someone whose best years are still to come. But what many people don’t realize is that Babers spent 27 years as an assistant coach. Before becoming Eastern Illinois’ head coach in 2012, he’d practically given up on ever getting a head coaching opportunity.His hire at Syracuse in December of 2015 wasn’t his first head coaching job. But it was, in many ways, a validation of all the years he’d put in as an assistant coach. His first job as a head coach in a Power-5 conference.He notably opened up his introductory press conference by asking everyone in the room to close their eyes. He waited and was insistent that even media do the same. Then he told everyone to imagine the Carrier Dome filled and SU football playing as fast as any program in the nation.Syracuse hadn’t fielded a team with more than eight wins in 14 seasons prior to Babers. It had won seven total games the previous two seasons. But Babers exuded confidence anyway.-Sam Blum2015: Field hockey team wins national championshipThis field hockey victory was the first women’s national championship in school history, and it in some ways now represents a bygone era in Syracuse athletics. Then-Director of Athletics Daryl Gross invested heavily in non-revenue sports, which particularly helped the field hockey program because coach Ange Bradley recruited extensively in Europe. Three of the team’s best players came from abroad — Emma Russell (Ireland), Alma Fenne and Lies Lagerweij (both from Netherlands) — combining with a homegrown talent in goalkeeper Jess Jecko, from an hour east of Syracuse, to propel the Orange that season.They won the championship on a freezing day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I still remember the team lifting Bradley up to celebrate. She lifeguarded and delivered newspapers as a kid to pay for field hockey camps. She scrapped from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, to Delaware, where she did what her parents hadn’t and attended college. She became a Hall of Fame field-hockey player for the Blue Hens, though a championship still eluded her. I still remember, up in the air, how hard Bradley cried.Now, she and associate head coach Allan Law are what’s left of that title run. The three stars graduated. Jecko still plays but for Team USA, and Gross is gone, his exit set in motion by the NCAA report in March 2015. This story, as it is with many championships, is one of a fleeting moment when everything came together for so many in one place at one time.-Sam Fortier2016: Men and women’s basketball reach Final FourThose two simultaneous March Madness runs were really pretty magical for the Orange. With the men as a No. 10 seed and women as a No. 4 seed that had never previously reached the Sweet 16, neither group was expected to do much. In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the SU women upset No. 1 seed South Carolina in the Sweet 16 and handled No. 7-seeded Tennessee and Washington in the next two rounds before eventually losing to No. 1 seed Connecticut in the national championship. The core of Alexis Peterson, Brittney Sykes, Brianna Butler, Cornelia Fondren and Briana Day entered the program as heralded recruits and left as immortal stars.The men’s Elite Eight game occurred mere hours after the women’s game and featured a comeback for the ages against Virginia. Malachi Richardson cemented himself as an all-time great in his lone season for SU. Michael Gbinije thrived in his new point guard role and Tyler Lydon became valuable even when he wasn’t scoring. After struggling through Jim Boeheim’s nine-game suspension and losing the first four games of conference play, a Final Four run seemed as unlikely as could be. But after just barely making the tournament, the Orange played their best against the best.-Paul Schwedelson2017: Assistant coach Mike Hopkins departs for head coaching position at WashingtonMike Hopkins dreamed of becoming Syracuse men’s basketball’s head coach. He spent 28 years at Syracuse as a player and coach, his last two decades there groomed by Jim Boeheim to be the Hall of Famer’s successor. The university announced in 2015 that, after Boeheim retired in 2017-18, Hopkins would take over. Though Boeheim’s ouster was a surprise, the choice of Hopkins wasn’t. Everyone both inside and outside the program thought he was a perfect fit because players, coaches and fans respected him. Then, suddenly, on a March afternoon in 2017, the news broke that he took the Washington job.His abrupt departure sent shockwaves through the Syracuse community. The next chapter of one of the most iconic college basketball programs was clouded in uncertainty (SU shortly thereafter announced an extension for Boeheim.) We needed answers, so Matt flew to Seattle and sat down with Hopkins after his introductory press conference at Washington. Sam supplemented that reporting in Syracuse by digging deep into Hopkins’ background. We interviewed his high school coach, his friends, the best man at his wedding. We talked to former Syracuse players, the Washington AD, friends and mentors outside of basketball and many more. Our ‘Power Move’ story offers insight beyond the reactions and answers the big question of why Hopkins left the only school he ever knew.-Matt Schneidman, Sam Fortier2017: Syracuse upsets No. 2 Clemson in the Carrier DomeThis game changed the perception of Syracuse’s football program to such a degree that I struggled to recall how I felt about SU’s chances going in. An old email from that week, which predicted a 31-20 Clemson win, advised, “It will occasionally get ugly. Feel free to look away when it does.”It sounds foolish now, but plenty agreed. During the postgame press conference, quarterback Eric Dungey asked for a show of hands from anyone who thought SU would win. There were no hands. The room fell silent.The Carrier Dome, though, had never been louder during my four years at SU. The Orange never trailed, so there was no reason for the roughly 42,000 fans to leave early. The usually bare silver bleachers were covered, as Dino Babers said, by a “sea of Orange” which later flooded the field to celebrate. One fan infamously broke his leg jumping over the wall. Others appeared in my game story because fellow beat writer Tomer Langer stopped me from rushing downstairs for interviews and advised me to scan the mob in search of moments that captured the shock and joy of it all.That Friday night might come to define the Babers era as a building block to something bigger. It might have been a one-off in a decade of mediocrity. But the feelings and memories it produced for a lot of people were anything but fleeting.-Joe Bloss2019: Jim Boeheim hits, kills man in I-690 car crashThe morning of Feb. 21, I was awoken by repeated bangs on my bedroom door. My roommate, then-assistant sports editor Nick Alvarez, yelled for my attention. Late the night before, the then-43 year men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed Jorge Jimenez on I-690. The crash occurred at 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, less than two hours after Boeheim exited the Carrier Dome following the Orange’s upset win over Louisville. A family lost a loved one. Boeheim, “heartbroken,” put his coaching duties on hold for a day. In a sensitive time, The D.O. sent reporters up and down Erie Boulevard, to the site of the crash and the Jimenez’ neighborhood. We made difficult calls, worked sleepless hours and kept chasing the story until there was nothing left to chase. Nick and KJ Edelman did a lot of the field work: They hopped in a car and drove around Jimenez’ neighborhood searching for people who knew him. Then-photo editor Molly Gibbs, then-news editor Kennedy Rose and then-assistant news editor Casey Darnell chipped in on the coverage any way they could.Following the incident, it was announced that Boeheim would coach less than 72 hours after the incident. He walked out to the Carrier Dome to a standing ovation while his team lost to No. 1 Duke that night, 75-65. Then, he spoke to the media.“It doesn’t matter how I feel,” Boeheim said. “It’s how (the Jimenez family) feels, and what’s happened to them, and there’s just nothing I can say about it.”At The D.O., we needed so many writers to have all-hands-on deck so we didn’t miss anything. There were many people who had to (and still have to) face the fallout of the crash. And The D.O. didn’t rest until we covered it all.-Michael McClearyBONUS: Justyn Knight wins individual cross-country NCAA championshipJustyn Knight crossed the finish line in Louisville, Kentucky, accomplishing the dream he’d run towards for four years. He found his mother and gave her a hug and kiss.The senior turned to former-Olympian Herman Frazier, a mentor of his, for an embrace. Then he looked at me and then-senior staff writer Matthew Gutierrez. Knight told us he was cramping for more than half of the race.Because Knight was one of the top runners in the nation at 21 years old, he’d spent his summer racing in the IAAF World Championships, placing 10th in the 5,000-meter alongside his hero Mo Farah. But that also meant his 2017 cross-country debut would be delayed. He’d run in the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational and win for a second-straight year. Then he won ACCs, then regionals.Knight spent most of his final cross-country race at SU in the second pack until he raced up to third place. On the straightaway, his patented and always-expected kick propelled him to victory. So when he told us that he was cramping in the most important race of his life (at the time), I instinctively mouthed the words “excuse me.” I was in shock.“When I got to the straightaway (with 300 meters left), I just had an out-of-body experience and said, ‘You know, Justyn, you’re going to look back at this and if you don’t go right now, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life.’ So I just did that.”-KJ Edelman Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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