This year, the ACC will welcome Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame into the fold, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh as full participants in the 2013 football season. This newly expanded ACC means that it is time to get to know our new dance partners.
John Mundy recently chatted with Syracuse alum John Cassillo of Atlantic Coast Convos and Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician to find out what ACC fans should know about Syracuse football. It’s captivating. Really.
Mundy: You know, John, as a Southerner (yes, it's capitalized) I was really excited when
Ninja Commissioner Swofford announced you guys and Pitt were coming aboard. Namely because you're not Connecticut. My chief concern about Syracuse's arrival, really, is the initial road trips up to the Carrier Dome. Like, if I order sweet tea at the hotel restaurant am I going to get laughed at, slapped or what? We have a different way of doing things down here, and we don't do well with change. "Early Adopters" we are not.
At any rate, let's first talk about what the Orange fans think about joining the ACC? I mean, it's not like you joined Conference USA. What IS the pulse of Orange Nation? Is there one? Or, is there just a lot of wistful take about the "good ole days" of the Big East?
Cassillo: When it first happened, the initial reaction was shock, of course. We founded the Big East and were a large part of its long-running success in basketball, so it was stunning to see us willingly leave that behind. But as the reality of college athletics has set in over the past 18 months, I'd say the over-arching majority of the fanbase is on-board with the move at this point. Syracuse fans are excited to see some new faces like Duke and UNC coming to the Carrier Dome, while at the same time, it'll be great to schedule some of our old rivals -- especially Boston College.
Looking back at what the fist post-raid iteration of the Big East, we were a fish out of water -- a private school that played both football and basketball in that conference -- and as such, the ACC is a natural fit for the Orange. Plus, improving the stature of your academic peers is never a bad thing, and it's hard to top the company you're surrounded by in the ACC.
Have you folks down in North Carolina warmed to us a bit? I'm sure it was a bit easier to see Deacons fans on this than it was to sell Florida State or Clemson on it.
Mundy: Wait. Are Florida State and Clemson still in the league? I really thought they were in the Big 12.
Anyways, keep your filthy paws off of Boston College. You Orange people shan't disrupt what has become THE rivalry in college athletics: Wake/BC.
(Editor's note: If you think I'm wrong, ask yourself one question: "Does my school's biggest rivalry have a bingo game?" I didn't think so. Carry on.)
I think anyone over 50 is not real happy with conference expansion, but then, they are still mad about Florida State, Miami, BC and Virginia Tech joining. Do not take it personally. The ACC used to be a happy eight-team family that featured a basketball tournament for North Carolina ACC schools only: The Dixie Classic. Those days are long gone. Alas, they are still fresh in many fans' minds.
I think those of us that understand basic economics are excited about the ACC once again being the number one basketball conference in the country. Granted, Duke and North Carolina have national titles in the last few years but the league as a whole (in my opinion) has suffered in quality for the last decade. Some great individual teams, sure. Top to bottom?
However, let's talk about the football. What do I tell my readers about Syracuse football? Who is the coach? Is Greg Paulus still at quarterback? And... Who is Troy Nunes?
Cassillo: Syracuse football's probably one of my favorite topics to talk about -- mostly because very few people outside of the fan base really know anything about it. To give a primer and address your questions at the same time:
- Syracuse is 15th in all-time FBS wins, with 699 on the board
- We've got one national title (1959) and a Heisman Trophy winner, too (Ernie Davis, 1961) who you might've seen depicted in the 2008 movie, The Express
- We were once consistently excellent at football -- we won the 15th-most games of any program in the 1990s (which was not that long ago!)
Getting that out of the way, our current coach is Scott Shafer, who also served as defensive coordinator under former head coach Doug Marrone (now with the NFL's Buffalo Bills). Shafer's already pretty poplar with SU players and fans, especially when he says things like:
"We're gonna go to the damn ACC and we're gonna storm that conference and do better than people think we are in Year One." If he wasn't my coach, I'd be terrified.
Thankfully, Greg Paulus is not our quarterback anymore. Though I'd also have to thank him for showing up when it did, because it allowed departed starter Ryan Nassib an extra year to learn. After sitting on the bench for a year, Nassib ended up having a pretty entertaining and successful career with SU, racking up 21 victories (including two bowl wins), 9,190 passing yards and 70 touchdowns. Now, we've got ourselves a quarterback controversy on our hands, as the job appears to be a toss-up between junior Terrel Hunt and transfer Drew Allen (formerly from Oklahoma).
For those unaware, Troy Nunes was one of Syracuse's quarterbacks from 1999-2002, the time immediately following Donovan McNabb's time on campus. While Nunes performed well enough, the most notable moment of his tenure was arguably the time an announcer exclaimed "Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician!" in a 2002 game against Auburn. You can read about how this all came about in Sean Keeley's (TNIAAM's founder) first post on SB Nation.
But what about you guys? Any bad blood left over from the Syracuse-Wake Forest football game in 2011? And I'm still confused as to how the Demon Deacons won the ACC title in 2006. Please explain.
Mundy: It's funny that you ask about 2006, since Syracuse had a lot to do with that championship season.
Wake Forest opened that historic season with a visit from the Orange, a back-and-forth affair that was tied at 10 after one half of play. During a Wake Forest drive during the third quarter, Demon Deacon quarterback Ben Mauk dove on a fumble, and was hit by two Syracuse defenders in the scrum- fracturing his humerus and tearing his labrum.
Riley Skinner, a redshirt freshman who was mere weeks removed from being fourth on the quarterback depth chart, replaced Mauk. Wake Forest handed the ball off for the rest of the game, save for one pass, and won the game 20-10.
With Mauk out for the season, Skinner was then thrown into the mix. However, Skinner was a drop-back, pro-style quarterback- and the Deacon offense was based on more of an option attack to utilize Mauk's versatility. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke was forced to simplify the offense, and legend has it that Skinner was given only one directive: "don't turn the ball over."
Wake, of course, went on to the win ACC Championship and appeared in the Orange Bowl (losing to Bobby Effing Petrino's Louisville team). People still speculate about what would have happened if Mauk hadn't gone down and Skinner never saw the field. The Deacons returned 18 starters that season and had a load of talent on defense. It's my guess that they would have had a successful season with the talented Mauk, but the stars really started to line up.
One side note: during that season, the Deacs lost to Clemson in a turn of events many of us still haven't gotten over yet. So, it'll be years before the Wake faithful fret about the 2011 loss to Syracuse.
Cassillo: Ah. Well that makes more sense. Guess I was grasping at straws to try and create some sort of "bad blood" between Wake and Syracuse, being as we'll be in the same division for the foreseeable future and all. Alas, can't create something out of nothing. Unless you're Boston College and Clemson, that is (hello, O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy!). Though I'm sure the ACC will be happy to create the "Hey, You're a Basketball School!" trophy for Syracuse, Wake, Duke and UNC to compete over soon...
Mundy: On that note, I will wrap this little chat up (as I feverishly email my new Yankee friend 100 jpegs of Jim Grobe holding the ACC Championship trophy). Thanks to John Cassillo for playing along.
You can visit John at his website, Atlantic Coast Convos and follow him on Twitter @JohnCassillo. He also is a regular contributor to Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, SB Nation's most excellent Syracuse community.