The first Syracuse Orange football team wore pink. It’s hard to believe now, given the university’s color-centric moniker, but in 1889, the school and its gridiron squad from central New York wore the hue most closely associated with Easter. However, the following season, both factions adopted the shade they proudly wear to this day, and in the past 100 years, those colors have become synonymous with national championships, gutsy performances, and legendary athletes.
There’s no one player who best represents what it means to be an Orangeman, but there is a jersey number that will do the trick. From Hall of Fame tailback Jim Brown to Heisman winner Ernie Davis, #44 is treated like a badge of honor on the ‘Cuse campus. Other players wore the number before Brown received it in ‘54, but none of them set the NCAA record for most points scored in a game or became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Thomas Stephens owned it before Davis, but he didn’t become the first African-American to be named the top college football player in the country, nor did he break any of Brown’s school records. In 2005, the university retired #44 as a tribute to the titans who had worn it and put Orange football on the map. Ten years later, it was brought back in an attempt to provide some luck to a gridiron crew that had fallen on hard times.
On the field, the football program’s finest moment is absolutely the undefeated season of ‘59 and the national championship that came with it. With that on the resume, you’d think that the pigskin rules the hearts of Orange fans, but actually, gridiron exploits are somewhat of a second banana in central New York. It’s through no fault of their own, but rather that men’s basketball has just been pretty awesome for the last four decades or so. After being promoted to head coach in ‘76, Jim Boeheim was the leader of one of the most consistent clubs in the country. Over the course of nearly 40 years on the bench, Boeheim guided Syracuse to more than 30 NCAA tournament appearances, four Final Four showings, and the title in ‘03. Two years after cutting down the nets, Boeheim was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Otto the Orange helps give Syracuse the look of a well-rounded athletics university (literally), but the dynastic men’s lacrosse program and their double-digit NCAA crowns firmly put to rest any question about ‘Cuse’s bona fides. Dubbed Otto’s Army, the student cheering section is renowned in its own right. They cheer, jeer, and shake their keys during “key” plays. They expect victory because, really, that’s all they know. The school rallying cry has taught them that the Orange will fight with all their might, and if history is any indication, then Syracuse will be giving 110% for another 100-plus years.