Not every nonconference game can be an historic trip, but that’s what Saturday’s game at Syracuse will be for the No. 8-ranked LSU Tigers. This will be LSU’s first game in the Northeast since a 14-13 win at Boston College in 1947, and the Tigers’ first regular-season meeting with the Orange anywhere. An LSU win would be the program’s 50th straight against regular-season, nonconference opponents. But just who is Syracuse, other than a 3-0 team with wins over Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan? Here’s a primer on the Orange, and how they got their name.
1. Two bowls
The only meetings between LSU and Syracuse in football have been in bowl games. A little over 50 years ago, the schools met in the 1965 Sugar Bowl at old Tulane Stadium. Longtime LSU radio broadcaster Doug Moreau was a star of the game, catching a 57-yard touchdown pass and kicking a 28-yard field goal in the Tigers’ 13-10 victory. In January 1989 LSU, fresh off a share of the Southeastern Conference title with Auburn, took on Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Florida (now the Outback Bowl). The Tigers turned in a lackluster effort, falling to Syracuse 23-10 to finish 8-4. Syracuse is scheduled to visit Tiger Stadium on Sept. 23, 2017.
2. All-time greats
Running back Ernie Davis, a two-time All-American, became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy when he captured it in 1961. Sadly, he died two years later from leukemia. The Carrier Dome’s field is named for Davis, whose story is told in the 2008 movie “The Express,” which took its title from Davis’ nickname, the “Elmira Express.” As great as Davis was, football legend Jim Brown was Syracuse’s best all-around athlete. Brown, who became a Pro Football Hall of Famer and a young Les Miles’ idol with the Cleveland Browns, earned 10 varsity letters in football, basketball, lacrosse and track. Running back Floyd Little was Syracuse football’s only three-time All-American (1964-66) and was followed by Larry Csonka, a two-time All-American (1966-67) who went on to star at running back for the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins. Both are also Pro Football Hall of Famers. Wide receiver Quadry “The Missile” Ismail, a 1991 All-American who returned kicks for the Saints in 1998, is probably Syracuse’s greatest player of the last 25 years.
3. The Carrier Dome
In 1909, Dr. Charles Burrows visited Syracuse’s two-year-old Archbold Stadium, beheld its Roman Coliseum-like design and wrote, “Athletic contests may come and go but the recently completed concrete stadium at Syracuse University will endure forever.” Well, forever lasted 70 years, when construction of the Carrier Dome began on the site of antiquated Archbold. The only domed stadium in the northeast and the largest structure of its kind on a college campus anywhere, the 49,262-seat facility opened 35 years ago Sunday. Over the last 3½ decades the Carrier Dome has been home to Syracuse football and basketball (it seats 34,616 for that sport), concerts, numerous NCAA tournament games and the occasional monster truck rally. Nicknamed “The Loud House” because of the way sound bounces back to the field off its Teflon-coated, fiberglass fabric roof, the Carrier Dome is so named because the air conditioning and heating maker Carrier paid $2.75 million for the naming rights (the dome was built for $27 million). However, the dome isn’t air conditioned.
4. Simply Orange
When Syracuse was founded in 1872, its school colors were pink and pea green. A year later, they changed to pink and blue. In 1890, unhappy students went to the school’s chancellor urging the colors be changed again. It was discovered the most popular collegiate color combination was orange and blue. “But orange alone apparently was not claimed by any school and was Syracuse’s for the taking,” said Frank Marion, a Syracuse alum and motion picture pioneer. Syracuse’s athletic teams became known as the Orangemen and later Orangewomen, but in 2005 the school dropped the gender references and made its nickname just Orange. There have been legends over the years that the nickname has something to do with William of Orange (a Protestant British king) or some sort of religious significance, but it’s really all about the color.
5. Famous Alumni
Vice-president Joseph Biden (Law, 1968) … “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark (1951) … Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (1983) … Novelist Joyce Carol Oates (1960) … “60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft (1971) … “Red Badge of Courage” author Stephen Crane (1891) … Rock and roll legend Lou Reed (1964) … Actor Frank Langella (1959) … Foursquare.com founder Dennis Crowley (1998) … 1984 Miss America/singer/actress Vanessa Williams (1985) … NBC sportscaster Bob Costas (1974), Monday Night Football announcer Mike Tirico (1988), NBA announcer Marv Albert (1963) and New Orleans Saints/WVUE announcer Jim Henderson (graduate school, 1973). Syracuse is known as “Sportscaster U.”