Rich Barnes-US PRESSWIRE
Tomorrow UConn will play its last Big East game at the Carrier Dome in any sport. Some thoughts.
After taking a look at the men's basketball schedule last night it occurred to me that Friday night's UConn-Syracuse game is the last time any Husky team will play a Big East game in the Carrier Dome. Both basketball teams only host Syracuse this year, so unless we magically grow a Division I men's lacrosse team, this is it. This is the last chance.
UConn fans, in the midst of the "Pasqualoni must go" frenzy, probably don't realize that this year's football season is about as discouraging for the Orange as it is for the Huskies. But that shouldn't put a damper on the end of a great rivalry.
It can't go without mentioning that none of the current UConn football players have ever lost to Syracuse. The football rivalry has been shockingly one-sided the past five years. Syracuse never won a game in East Hartford. UConn's last loss to Syracuse was in the Dome in 2006, 20-14, right as Greg Robinson, Syracuse's first Pasqualoni replacement, was steering the Orange into the ditch.
For me personally, this rivalry has been a lot of fun. My boss for the past three years -- and co-worker for the past nine -- is a Syracuse alum and works out of my company's Syracuse office. I've made a handful of work trips over the years to the place where it can snow four-straight days any time between November and March. I've also come back from vacation to find my workspace covered in Syracuse football posters. Guess the Syracuse office people were in town while I was out!
Nothing will top my first trip to Syracuse and the Carrier Dome as a UConn fan. For basketball, if you've never been in the arena and only seen a game on TV, it's a completely different look with the basketball bleachers moved in to the football field's 50 yard line. It takes about half an hour in there to stop looking at the ceiling and the empty stands above the Syracuse student section, which are left that way because of obstructed views. And then, once you get used to the feel of the place, you have to contend with the fact that you're surrounding by thousands upon thousands of Syracuse fans.
Us UConn fans were hassled the entire first half of the game. We even had our tickets checked. We probably would not have heard the end of it, except that it was the 2006 game where UConn had a 45-25 lead at halftime and cruised to an 88-80 victory. At one point in the first half Hilton Armstrong had more putback dunks than Syracuse had points -- four -- and the Orange had more turnovers to boot. By the end of the game we got a lot of "You guys are better than us" and "Boeheim needs to play some man-to-man". Ironically Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim ended that night with 718 career wins each. With Calhoun's retirement, Boeheim will finish with more career victories, but Calhoun (in all likelihood) will finish with more NCAA titles, something I point out frequently.
It's going to be a sad thing to lose this as a regular rivalry, in any sport. Syracuse fans tend to be a little louder and (quoting this from another Syracuse alumni) "they drink a lot more than UConn fans at the game". They are also in their seats at tipoff/kickoff and Orange shirts dominate not just the Dome on gameday, but Central New York. We can always bring up UConn's three national titles, but they'll always respond with that six-overtime game you may have heard about.. They have Gerry McNamara. We have Kemba Walker. And this year, we both have some underachieving football teams. It's just too bad this will be the last time they play.