Trouble On The Hill

Syracuse University
Syracuse University

As a proud Syracuse University alum, I am very sad and troubled by what has transpired on ‘my’ campus over the past few weeks, where racist graffiti and vandalism have shut the campus down. Sadly, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, as a few years ago some Theta Tau pledges and brothers were suspended for a racist, tone deaf video that was part of a pledging ceremony.

In reading through the many stories that have been published about these most recent incidents, the thing that troubled me the most was something I noticed when these stories first broke. From a well reported timeline on SU’s “Daily Orange” newspaper, they layout the specific timing of the initial acts and the response of the university.

via SU’s Daily Orange

What struck me was the fact that I was on campus that weekend. I was on campus that weekend along with hundreds upon hundreds of prospective students and fellow parents of prospective students, taking tours of the campus and all the different schools on campus. That weekend was SU’s Fall Open House.

So putting on my ‘conspiracy cap’ for a moment, do we think that SU’s Administration and Admissions teams kept this on the low down during the Open House weekend, until all the prospective families had departed

It would have been super awkward (and that is the understatement of the year) if SU had issued a public statement during their important Open House weekend for prospective students. I want to be clear that I have absolutely no factual evidence to back this up. I am purely speculating and connecting a few dots. And clearly, the timing of when SU’s Administration did make their initial response – 5 days after the initial event – only pushed back the media firestorm that has transpired over the past few weeks. But if there is any nugget of truth to this having any influence on the timing of their response, what does that say? No matter when the news broke, the fact of the matter is that every prospective student and parent that were up there that weekend for the Open House will be seriously reconsidering how SU fits into their future college plans based on what has transpired there.

I love Syracuse University. I bleed Orange. I was – and will continue to be – so proud of the diversity that was on the SU campus when I was there and in the years since. It was what made the school unique to me. It was not always sunshine and roses. There were issues, disagreements, and incidents. But that happens in any semi-closed environment that has such a diverse student body. The difference this time is that the level of respect that was present years ago has ceded to a culture where ignorant racists feel emboldened to spread their vile messages. This can not continue on the SU campus or in this country. My campus is better than this. We are better than this.

Smells Like School Spirit

It is that time of year again – March Madness, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where your brackets will be busted by the end of the weekend and the chances that you will win the office pool will go down in flames.  But don’t let that prevent you from showing some school spirit on your computer or mobile device. 

Head on over to my NCAA desktop backgrounds page for backgrounds of all 68 teams in this year’s field!

With some schools, there are other ‘designs’ within the other tabs on the page so hunt away if the ones in the “NCAA Tournament” tab don’t float your boat.

As a Syracuse fan for the majority of my life, I have to admit that I was extremely surprised that they made it – by the skin of their teeth –  into the Field of 68 .  So Let’s Go Orange! Let’s make some noise in this year’s tournament like we did in 2016!!

Paying It Forward

I’ve always enjoyed helping people out – almost to a fault. There are times when you help out a friend knowing that they will get you back sometime down the line.

There is the ever present ‘don’t burn bridges’ mantra that is even more relevant in today’s uber-networked world (an ideal that is probably impossible to uphold with 100% success, but that is another analysis altogether). In many ways, I’m in this sort of a situation these days as I look for ‘the next big thing’ in my career and so dependant on my network of friends, colleagues and family to help me get through this situation. And then there are the times when you help someone out and then question what the hell you are doing or have the whole thing backfire on you (we’ve all been there). In all of these scenarios, you do what you can to help someone out and rationalize that we’re all just doing our best to succeed and live our lives.

So when a couple of weeks ago, I received a blind email from a student at Syracuse University (my alma mater) – I could not help but lend a hand, and boy, did the result make me feel great! You see, on my SU Alumni profile, it says I worked at American Express (which I did from 2004 – 2010). The student was doing some research because he had applied to American Express’ undergraduate internship program. He was digging into the SU Alumni Database hoping to see if any SU alums work – or had worked – at American Express. Maybe he could get some tips, pointers, and advice about how best to approach the upcoming interviews. So when he found my name, he shot me an email, completely blindly and with admittedly low expectations. (Sidenote: This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. Several years ago, another SU student reached out to me for the exact same reason. That time, I spoke to the student a few times and to this day, we’re still in touch (mostly through email and text).

I responded to him within a day, we scheduled some time and ended up having a nice conversation. He had a series of questions to ask, I provided him as much background as I could and I also had some fun hearing about how the Syracuse campus was holding up this winter. It was nice. A week or so later, I got another email from him, saying he made it to the next round – an in person interview! – and he wanted to set up another call for some coaching because the first one was so helpful! So we connected again and I helped him prep for the live interview. And then, over the weekend, I got the best email of the bunch – the student informed me that he won the role and got accepted into the internship program! How awesome is that!?!

I’m not sure if I will ever meet this student face to face – it would be fun to do so one day. I’d like to think that in some small way, I helped him kick off a productive career. Time will tell. But above all else, what I hope is that one day, about 20 years from now, when some Syracuse undergrad who is just starting out on his or her adventure emails him, asking for advice and help, he’ll do the same thing and help get that future kid get prepared.

Down Goes Syracuse

Amid all the superfluous banter and ‘less-than-shock-and-awe’ over Syracuse’s loss last night to lowly Boston College, was this hilarious take down of our favorite Syracuse coaching punching bag Jim Boeheim via Grantland:

Previously undefeated Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season in surprising fashion, falling 62-59 to unranked Boston College at home. “Oh, we were definitely looking past them,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after the game. “I mean, they had six wins and we have Duke on deck. Don’t be an idiot. Boeheim then shrugged and said, “Honestly, I still couldn’t tell you a thing about how they play. They probably run an offense of some sort. But I was playing this bird flapping game on my iPad for most of the first half, before making a fart sound with his mouth.

To be clear, I could not be prouder of the Syracuse program and what they have done over the past 25 games. It was awesome and just a joy to watch, even if the games were ugly sometimes, or nail biters other times. In the long run, having Syracuse lose now is a good thing. I’d rather have it happen now than in March during the tournament.

However, losing to a team like Boston College, who has barely 6 wins, is definitely not a good reflection on the team or the coaching staff’s ability to motivate and adjust to the situation. And with the past two games and how close they were (vs Pitt and NC State), you could just feel that a loss like this was bound to happen.

Syracuse Hoops Players In The NBA

NOTE: I have started to contribute posts and articles to the Syracuse fan site Inside the Loudhouse. My first article published today and is titled “Syracuse Orange Hoopsters In the NBA“. An excerpt from it is below.

Through all the years that Jim Boeheim has been coaching men’s basketball at Syracuse University, he has never had a problem attracting basketball talent to the program. Many ‘talking heads’ have said that Boeheim has not done enough with the talent that has come through the program, but that is a discussion for another day. When a program like Syracuse attracts such basketball talent, the inevitable question becomes how many of it’s players make it to ‘The Show’ (aka: the NBA) and how well prepared are those players for all the demands at the professional level?…

Read the Full Article at Inside The Loudhouse.

The SI Cover Curse And the Final Four

Through the course of the sports year, and ahead of big sports events like the Super Bowl or the World Series or the NCAA Tournament, I sometimes take a cursory glance at the recent covers of Sports Illustrated and specifically those that feature said upcoming sporting event, mostly to see if the “SI Cover Jinx” still has it’s mojo intact. This is made exceedingly easier via their iPad app since there is a library of past issues that go back a few years to when they started offering digital versions of the magazine.

For those of you who don’t know, the “SI Cover Curse” is an urban legend where those athletes or teams featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated are cursed and/or jinxed to suffer loss, injury or both within a reasonable time frame after the cover story/feature. As you will see in examples listed at the above linked Wikipedia page, this is not a passing fad and it goes back years.

With Final Four weekend upon us, I thought it would be interesting to look at the SI covers and see if the “SI Cover Curse” could be a pseudo predictor of who may cut down the nets this weekend at the Final Four down in Atlanta.

And I want to be crystal clear here. I am the biggest Syracuse homer that you will find. My support and belief that my Orange(men) will win it all this year (and every year) is, and will forever be, unquestioned. That is, until the finality of a game’s result sets in. And to that end, sometimes you realize that there are forces (or Coaching ineptitude) at play that are beyond your or my control.

To start, let’s go to the SI College Hoops Preview back in November. Cody Zeller and Indiana are on the cover. As we know, they were sent home in the Sweet 16 round by my Syracuse Orange. And wow, did Zeller look really really bad in that loss.

Next, let’s look at the SI issue from March 25. They had a regional split of covers that included Indiana (Victor Oladipo), Gonzaga (Kelly Olynyk), Kansas (Ben McLemore) and Syracuse (Michael Carter-Williams). Indiana fell in the Round of 16. Gonzaga lost to Wichita State in the round of 32. Kansas choked lost to Michigan in the Elite 8. Only Syracuse is still standing.

And this week, SI has another regional cover split that includes Wichita State and Louisville (along with Tiger Woods and we won’t get into his, ahem, transgressions).

Louisville - Still alive
Louisville – Still alive

So if we cross reference all of these recent College Basketball focused covers this against the Final Four teams of Syracuse, Michigan, Wichita State, and Louisville, we see that the only team which has not been featured on the cover is Michigan.

And in this case, I fear that the Michigan Wolverines may have the advantage of the “SI Cover Curse” in their favor, since they have NOT been featured to date on the magazine’s cover.

Now, another factor to be considered here is the fact that “magazines” as we have known them are not nearly as influential in the media world as they once were. However, for some strange, outer body reason, the influence of the “SI Cover Curse” seems to be pretty alive and well.

Based on the above details, and I want to be clear that this is not my prediction or how I want things to play out, it appears that the “covers” are telling us that Louisville will beat Wichita State, Michigan will beat Syracuse, and Michigan will beat Louisville in the Finals on Monday night.

Damn, it hurts to write that.

Syracuse Final Four Desktop Background

Syracuse University Orange - Final Fours
Syracuse University Orange – Final Fours

For all your Syracuse fans out there, I thought I’d whip up a quick Syracuse Final Four desktop background to use on your computer this week. Pretty straight forward – SU logo plus the 5 logos from the Final Fours we have been to (1975, 1987, 1996, 2003 [Champs], 2013,2016).

Lets Go Orange!

PS – I have created many more “desktop wallpapers” for your viewing pleasure if you want to check them out and/or download them.

Syracuse Is Final Four Bound

finalfour_splash

For the fourth time, my Syracuse Orange(men) are heading to the Final Four. Syracuse has actually been remarkably consistent in it’s runs to the Final Four, going roughly once every nine years (1987, 1996, 2003, 2013) and once in each of the past four decades.

No matter what happens next weekend down in Atlanta, I’m still proud of the team. Now go out and bring back another championship to the Dome!!

Death Becomes The Big East

With all the crazy movement and conference re-alignment going on in college athletics over the past few years, it appears that a major casualty of all of this will be the Big East Conference.

Over the past few months, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame have bolted for the ACC, Rutgers to the Big 10 (or 14 but who’s counting), West Virginia to the Big 12 and on and on. Then this past week, the “Catholic Seven” of the league (those schools that are primarily basketball only) – Georgetown, St. John’s, Providence, DePaul, Marquette, Villanova, and Seton Hall – announced their departure from the conference, which has pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of the Big East.

Say what you want about the Big “East” adding teams to the league like Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, University of Houston, and that it will sustain itself for the near future until things settle down. But let’s be real…the heart and soul of the Big East Conference is gone and what is left is a vapid conglomeration of schools from all over the country. Rumor has it they will break the Big East into two divisions – the West and the East division…so you will have the Big East West and Big East East divisions. If they could only add Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Northeastern University to the conference, all corners of the compass would be accounted for. Schools from San Diego, CA, Texas, and Boise, ID in the Big East Conference makes as much sense as Chris Brown making a movie about relationships.

The history of the Big East was driven by basketball yet it’s demise was driven by football. For those, like me, who grew up watching Big East basketball in the years of Chris Mullen, Pearl Washington, Sherman Douglas, Derrick Coleman, and others, this is a sad sad time. The irony is that about 10 former Big East teams will now be part of the ACC when you also count Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. Where is the sense in that?

So to commemorate this sad occasion, the fine folks over at Bleacher Report have put together a top 20 best moments from Big East history and I’m proud to say Syracuse had quite a number of spots in the top 20, including the following:

#2 – Six Overtime win vs UConn – 2009 Big East Tournament
#5 – SU’s Crazy Unexpected Run to 2006 Big East Tournament As #9 Seed

#8 – Georgetown vs SU in Manley Field House, where the Hoyas snapped SU’s 57 game winning streak and thus started one of the great rivalries in College Hoops.

#9 – The 1981 Big East Tournament in the Carrier Dome, where Leo Rautins led the Orangemen to their first Big East crown.

#16 – Jim Boeheim’s 900th win (last week)

So yes, this is a sad time for long time Big East fans. The long rivalry of Georgetown – Syracuse or Pitt – West Virginia will be replaced by Florida State and Clemson. At least the “Duke Sucks” chant won’t need to change.

Syracuse U To Digitize Marcel Breuer Archives

Breuer’s Starkey House, Duluth, MN

In late March, my alma mater Syracuse University will be releasing the digitized archives of Marcel Breuer’s 30,000 drawings, photographs, and other materials from the early stages of his illustrious architecture and design career (at breuer.syr.edu…but the site is not up yet).

Breuer achieved remarkable success as a student in the furniture workshop of the Bauhaus, leading Walter Gropius to offer him a faculty position in 1925. That same year, he earned widespread critical acclaim for his tubular steel ‘Wassily’ chair, which incorporated the radical simplicity of form and interest in industrial materials often espoused by the Bauhaus. Breuer helped to redefine post-war American domestic architecture through projects like the ‘bi-nuclear’ house and the demonstration house in the garden of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (1949). He designed some 60 private residences by the mid-1950s, all of which are represented in the Marcel Breuer Digital Archive.

I am not a huge fan of Bauhaus style, but Breuer’s impact on the world of design and architecture can not be denied. Similar to how Frank Lloyd Wright extended his designs into the interior of the building, Breuer did the same with his furniture designs. Some of the most distinctive and lasting furniture and chair designs were developed by Breuer. When you go to a Doctor’s offic, more times than not you will sit in one of his Ceska chairs. When I was younger, a friend and neighbor of mine had one of his Wassily Chairs in their house.

Also, next to Rem Koolaas, Walter Gropius (Breuer’s mentor) is one of the coolest architect’s name out there. :P

via Inside SU

The Day The Big East Died

This past weekend, it was announced that Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh will be leaving the Big East conference and joining the ACC.

My Syracuse Orange(men) are now part of the ACC. That just sounds wrong.

I have taken a few days to let this sink in. And in those few days, I have rationalized that from a business, relevance, and survival perspective relative to the current state (fiasco) that is college athletics, I can understand and agree with the move. Yet from a historical and emotional perspective, they are ripping out their athletic heart and soul and as far as I can see, signaling an end to the Big East conference as we know it.

Above and beyond any school in the Big East conference, it could be argued that Syracuse put the conference on the map. No disrespect to Georgetown, Villanova, Pitt, St. John’s and others. But to a high school kid, the spectacle of a sold out Carrier Dome and Brent Musburger saying “You are looking live at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY where today the Syracuse Orangemen will be taking on [insert team here]…” was (and still is) breathtaking. It drove athletes from Southern California to play basketball in the Big East and Syracuse, NY. Think about that for a second.

But this move is not about basketball. Its about football, money, survival, and relevance. The Big East was a basketball conference that tried to become a football conference. In my mind, no matter how hard it tried, it could never get the same respect for football as it did for basketball. In football circles, it was always second tier to the SEC, SWC/Big 12, etc. even though it had a seat at the BCS table. And in the end, that perception/reality was what did the conference in. The Big East’s basketball roots and success did not mean a thing.

The irony about this whole situation is that now the ACC has 5 former Big East schools (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Pitt) and from what I have heard, two more may be on the way. So as was very accurately Tweeted the other day by Pete Abraham (@peteabe) of the Boston Globe, the new look ACC may very well end up being structured as follows:

https://twitter.com/PeteAbe/status/115463437236191233

And at the end of the day, what will they have really accomplished? The 5 (and maybe 7) former Big East schools will get to play each other again, with a smattering of vapid games against Duke, Clemson and Florida State mixed in for good measure. But we will lose far more – we will lose the beauty of what made the Big East – rivalries with regional schools and programs like Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s. We will lose the ability for fans/students (oh, remember them?) to take reasonable weekend road trip to visit friends at a rival school and catch the game. We will lose the Big East Tournament in NYC – where alums from all over the Big East have gathered during a week in March for the past 25 years to enjoy a week of non stop, heart pounding, bragging rights basketball.

Yes, I understand the necessity to make this move. But the sports fan in me is not too excited about it.

Melo!

A stunningly awesome photo of Carmelo Anthony dunking last night during the Knicks’ big win vs Orlando. You can see and feel the silent purity of the play – Its as if there is no one in the gym but the Knicks and the Magic, and they are playing for nothing but the love of the game

The full set of photos from the game are on ESPN and many of them were taken by Nathanial Butler from Getty Images in the same shadow/spotlight motif. Just some amazing photos that I’d encourage you to check out.

Orange Madness

Come on, Jimmy B, don’t let me down. Throw a wrinkle in the gameplan to throw Villanova off. That is what is going through my mind tonight as my #4 ranked Syracuse Orange take on the #8 ranked Villanova Wildcats. The anticipation for this game is rivaling the classic Georgetown games from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Throughout the years, there have been several unique characters, signs and stunts at the Dome that have helped get those huge crowds revved up – there was Dome Eddie (a scrawny guy wearing a big Orange wig), the Dome Ranger (a guy in an Orange Lone Ranger outfit who ran up and down the length of the court), signs telling Boeheim to “Unleash Tony Scott” to name a few. And now, there has been a new twist when a genius SU Grad Student brought a five foot high picture of Jim Boeheim to a game. From there its expanded to Wes Johnson and, hilariously, even Juli Boeheim, Jim’s wife.

Over at Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications blog, there is a great interview with Pat Manley, the aforementioned grad student who came up with the idea for the “Big Head Boeheim”. And yes, for all you Syracuse fans, he is part of that same Manley family who’s name was on the old fieldhouse.

So here we go, this is what college hoops is all about. May the best team decked out in Orange win!

Bleeding Orange

su_uconn

As a student and an alum, I’ve been watching my beloved Syracuse Orange(men) for close to 22 years now. I’ve never been bashful in my criticism of Jim Boeheim and I’ve also been one to acknowledge when he’s done a good job. I’ve witnessed some of the greatest games in the Carrier Dome, watched almost every big game on TV, enjoyed 3 runs to the NCAA Championship game, one National Championship in 2003, and have watched some of the program’s most painful defeats (Richmond Spiders anyone?).

But what has gone on at MSG during this week’s Big East Tournament has has made me even more proud to be an alum of Syracuse University. The effort and will to win that the team put forth this week in the 6 (!!!) Overtime epic against UConn was nothing short of spectacular (Yes, I stayed up to watch it against my better judgment). And then to turn around and go into another Overtime game and win against a very good West Virginia University team is just staggering.

All the accolades and hype for their effort are justified. Jonny Flynn is “the man”. He has played in all but maybe 5 minutes of the past two games. Andy Rautins has been “en fuego”. Eric Devendorf, not one of my favorites, has been clutch and mostly in control.

Tonight the Orange play a very, very good University of Louisville team. The cynic in my says it does not look promising. But at this point, nothing will surprise me.

Orange Jubilation

I don’t usually post about my alma mater’s basketball team, but their performance this week at the Big East tournament was just too spectacular to let go without some recognition. Maybe its the Garden and its amazing ability to bring the best out of certain players and teams. Maybe its cheezy coaches polls that are critical of the team’s star player. No matter what the motivator, the run that my Syracuse Orange(men) just pulled off was one of the best I’ve seen for this program, and (at risk of dating myself) I’ve been actively following them for close to 20 years now.

While its not as good as the 2003 National Championship, the 1996 run to the National Finals, and the 1987 run to the National Finals, its in the same ball park. The reason is that when this week started, the Syracuse basketball team was on life support. They had a 19-11 record with some really ugly losses (by 39 points to DePaul…yikes!), and few strong wins. Without a doubt, they were a team on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament fence as they entered this week’s Big East tournament. For Gerry McNamara, Syracuse’s senior shooting guard, the week started with a couple of polls stating that he was the most overrated player in the Big East. But by the end of this week, he is the king of NYC and the Big East.

So as I sit here after just witnessing the amazing 4 game run that my Orange(men) just pulled off to claim their 5th Big East Tournament Championship, and 2nd title in a row, it just leaves this SU alum speechless. They essentially took themselves from being an NIT team to somewhere between a #6-8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Its not as much the fact that they won the Big East Tournament, but its the manner in which they won, and the teams they beat along the way. They beat two of their biggest rivals in UConn and Georgetown (Beating UConn, especially when they are #1 in the country, is sweet, but beating Georgetown in the Big East tournament always makes the basketball season that much sweeter), and, arguably, their 3rd biggest rival in the University of Pittsburgh. For Gerry McNamara, he essentially put the team on his shoulders, making clutch shot after clutch shot, and single handedly beating Cincinnati in the first round and UConn (#1 in the country) in the 2nd round. Now let’s hope that they do not have a let down after this amazing run and replicate their unceremonious 1st round loss in last year’s NCAA’s.

Oh Well: The jubilation was short lived as the Orange were efficiently dispatched from the NCAA Tournament by Texas A&M. It was a classic #5 vs. #12 seed upset special. The Orange did not deserve such a high seeding. They were not that good a team.

Random thoughts….Did anyone notice that for all the frivolous expansion that the Big East did this year, and all the changes, that the league went through, that the final four teams were all original members of the league – SU, Georgetown, Villanova and U of Pittsburgh….Loved the fact that Derrick Coleman and “Pearl” Washington was on hand at MSG rooting on the Orange….While Boeheim has at least a 10 year pass now for winning the National Championship in 2003, his game coaching did not make these wins any easier…I love the way that ESPN dregs up fossils like Bucky Waters to analyze the WAC tournament, like he is going to know anything about the teams in that league…

Irrelevant Football

About a year ago, I posted about how far Syracuse’s football program has fallen. And as the college football season begins its fifth week, the Syracuse program is following up a poor 2003 season with a pathetic 2004 season. And to reinforce my sentiments, today I saw two articles referencing Syracuse’s fall from grace. In USA Today, Michael Hiestead noted a sound byte from John Saunders of ABC who stated that “Syracuse has fallen off the face of the college football world”.

And in today’s NY Times, there was an article noting how far Syracuse has fallen after their most recent thrashing at the hands of the University of Virginia.

I said it last year, and I will say it again this year: Pasqualoni must go.

My School’s Nickname is Officially A Fruit

An era has ended at my alma mater Syracuse University. The school has officially changed the nickname of the school’s athletic teams from Orangemen/Orangewomen to just plain Orange. I guess the administration wanted the school to join other institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, and Wellesley as schools whose athletic nicknames are colors. Unfortunately, the colors of these other schools cited can not be mistaken for a fruit. I don’t know if I like this move. I was partial to the old Orangemen monniker. They should have gone back to the Saltine Warrior!

I think one positive that can be taken from this move is the fact that they seem to have finally jettisoned that amazingly stupid logo that they force fed down our throats when I was there in the early 1990’s, along with several other logos, in favor of the one posted to the right. They seem to have addressed an obvious branding problem as there were several versions and instances of a Syracuse logo treatments out in the public eye with no unified treatment.

Now, if they ever considered changed the nickname to something like the Salukis, the Boll Weevils, or my personal favorite, the Palidins….hmm, I think I will stick with Orange.

Chucks

I was listening to the 80’s Alternative station on Radio@AOL and the song “Eighties” by Killing Joke (Album: “Laugh? I Nearly Bought One”) came on. While an udergrad at Syracuse, my friends and I went to a great watering hole called Chuck’s (Hungry Charlies). Every time this song came on, this one guy whom I never actually met, would get up on one of the tables and just start stomp dancing. The coolest thing was that when the song came on, and if he was there, everyone in the bar knew what was going to happen and would stop what they were doing and just watch. Listening to that song brought me back there.