Gather round young ones and we shall tell the tales of yesteryear.
Of course, by “yester” I refer to this 2012 that is getting a kick square in the pants at midnight on Dec. 31.
Below are the best five stories from SU for the calendar year about to pass by.
5. Field Hockey No. 1 and to Final Four - The Orange field hockey team would be higher on the list if they hadn’t been beaten to the punch by the lacrosse team by just a couple of months or fell to North Carolina, 6-1, in the national semifinal. At one point this season, the Orange had wins over UNC and Princeton (who played for the national title) and the No. 1 rank in the land. Things came apart in the final game, but the program could be one of the best secrets hidden on campus.
4. Move to ACC - In one of the moves that continued to show that college athletics is more about business than education. There...it has been said...again. But heading into a conference that isn’t too much more of a challenge on the football field than the Big East and has the likes of Duke, Carolina, and Wake Forest on the basketball side is a good one. This isn’t the kind of shift that changes the entire identity of The Orange, but it feels like that last week of high school when you know you won’t see some of the jerks (Georgetown) or good friends (umm...hmm...no one) ever again.
3. Women’s Lacrosse in Nat’l Title Game - Before this spring no women’s team in Syracuse University history ever played for a national title. The lacrosse team changed that and is probably going to make another run this spring as leading scorer Alyssa Murray returns. Sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Richardson got a year of experience and wins in the national quarter and semifinals in 2012.
2. Football Turnaround - Believe it or not, Ryan Nassib is statistically the greatest quarterback to ever put on a Syracuse uniform.
Also, of the 120ish Division I football programs, the Orange ranks No. 52 when most of the polls average out and is in its second bowl in three seasons. Not to be the “I told you so” guy, but the words: “For the clearer minded, SU can be a perennial No. 20-45 team in the country. An upper third program.” were written by yours truly on Oct. 4.
Right now the Orange ranks better than North Carolina, Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, NC State and Duke. Moving forward into the ACC without Nassib, Lemon, and probably Pugh is the next step.
1. No. 900, 2011-12 season, and scandal for SU Men’s Hoops - The year of 2012 saw some of the highest of possible highs on the court and the lowest of possible lows off of it for the Syracuse men’s basketball program.
On Nov. 9 the Associated Press summed up one of the most trying times in Syracuse University history: “Federal authorities have dropped their investigation into one of the sexual abuse claims that cost a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach his job, threw a top-ranked team into turmoil and threatened the career of Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.”
Two former Syracuse ballboys, Bobby Davis and Michael Lang, accused longtime assistant coach Bernie Fine of abuse when they were teens. A third man, Zachary Tomaselli, of Lewiston, Maine, went public with an accusation that Fine had molested him in 2002. Fine, who denied the allegations, was fired Nov. 27. There was investigation, doubts, retractions, recants, lawsuits, and pain throughout the year.
Fab Melo missed the NCAA tournament due to eligibility issues and there were drug rumors about former teams on top of all that.
However, on the court, the Orange endured.
Syracuse finished the 2011-12 season in the Elite Eight, with a 34-3 record, a 17-1 Big East record, a 20-game win streak to open the campaign, and the No. 1 rank in the country for a time. Other than the national title season of 2003, it was arguably the greatest on court season for Boeheim’s Orange.
The 2012-13 season has begun in similarly perfect fashion for SU as the Orange started the year ranked in the Top-10 and have moved steadily into the Top-5. On Dec. 17 in the second game of the Gotham Classic, Boeheim picked up the 900th win of his career all coming at his alma mater to further cement his Hall of Fame status in Central New York.
Always wanting his team to improve, like any coach does, Boeheim had this thought after SU’s 108-56 win over Monmouth earlier this season: “Lots of little things (to improve on). Things on defense. We haven’t worked on our press that much so there are some adjustments that we can make there. There are always mistakes. If you make 15 turnovers there are 15 teaching moments right there.”
The Orange’s final season in the Big East (due to the school joining the ACC next year which is a story in itself) begins on Jan. 2 vs. Rutgers at the Carrier Dome.
Men’s soccer to Sweet 16 - Though the hated Hoyas were the ones that ended the year in PKs, the Orange on the pitch could be on the upswing.
Jarrett Eaton's NCAA National Championship in the 60 meter high hurdles in indoor track and field - Not one of the higher profile occurrences of the year, but it is one of the first national titles in quite some time at SU.
The Ties of Jim Boeheim - This is a continuing story that will develop into 2013. Stay tuned for the updates.