By Michael McAllister
We've all heard the story. It was 1980, and Syracuse was riding a 57 game winning streak at Manley Field House. The Orange were ranked #2 in the country, and were primed to close out their home court with a bang as the Carrier Dome was set to open the following season. But to everyone's amazement, Georgetown rallied and won the game 52-50. As if that wasn't reason enough to hate the Hoyas, head coach John Thompson declared, "Manley Field House is officially closed" after the game. This sent Syracuse fans into a fury, and a rivalry was born.
Just a few years later in 1984, perhaps the second moment that sent the rivalry into a new level of hatred. It was the Big East tournament championship game, and Georgetown's Michael Graham threw a punch at Syracuse's Andre Hawkins after Hawkins had grabbed a rebound. Immediately, an official ejected Graham. However, the officials then got together and after a discussion with John Thompson, decided to let Graham remain in the game. Instead of the Orange having four free-throws and the ball, the only get two free-throws and Graham was allowed to play. Hawkins would later foul out forcing Syracuse to play with three freshmen the rest of the way. Pearl Washington was also called for a controversial 5-second call down the stretch. The Hoyas forced the game into overtime and won the game. Afterwards, Jim Boeheim was extremely irate, and screamed "the best team did not win tonight!" He then threw a chair and stormed out of the post-game press conference.
On the flip side of the controversy was a game in 1990 at the Dome, when Syracuse beat Georgetown 89-87 in overtime. John Thompson was called for three technicals on one play, and the Orange scored 10 points on one possession as a result. The game saw a then record crowd of 33,015.
There have been thrilling games, such as the 1985 game where Pearl Washington hit a free-throw line jumper to give the Orange a victory over the Hoyas.
In 1987 when Georgetown squeaked out a one point victory in the Carrier Dome. The Big East tournament championship game in 1992 saw Syracuse beat Georgetown 56-54 in a classic slugfest game. Dave Johnson and Lawrence Moten led the way for the Orange as they upset the favored Hoyas. In 1997, Syracuse football star Donovan McNabb came off the bench to score 10 points, including two key free-throws down the stretch, and grab some important offensive rebounds to lead the Orange to victory. Part of Syracuse's 2006 memorable run through the Big East tournament with Gerry McNamara's heroics included a victory over Georgetown. The Hoyas were up by as many as 15, and held a double digit lead for seemingly the entire second half. But McNamara and the Orange came storming back, and a layup by Eric Devendorf with 1.5 seconds left gave the Orange the win. Syracuse went on to beat Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament championship game. Or in 2009 when Syracuse blew a 16 point second half lead, but held on in overtime for a 98-84 lead. There were even some fireworks during the Craig Esherick era, when Gerry McNamara hit a three-pointer at the buzzer in 2004. Yes there have been plenty of those.
There has been controversy, as with Thompson's comments about closing Manley Field House, or the incident with Graham's punch. The hatred even spilled off the floor as Syracuse frequently took over Georgetown's home arena, and made it feel more like an Orange home game. In fact, it was said that nearly the entire upper level was blanketed in orange. Last season, Georgetown had to go to unprecedented levels
to try to prevent Syracuse fans from attending. They did not release tickets for that game to the general public as they normally do, and gave the Syracuse Alumni club of Washington D.C. (who usually purchases a large group of tickets) the run around. Syracuse fans still attended well, and could be clearly heard on television.
There have been great players. Some of the greatest in college basketball history have played in the rivalry. Think back to Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning, Reggie Williams, Charles Smith, Allen Iverson, Jeff Green and others. Or on Syracuse's side with Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, Sherman Douglas, Rony Seikaly, Lawrence Moton, John Wallace, Gerry McNamara, Carmelo Anthony, and others. Remember in Carmelo's only season, he beat Georgetown three times.
Yes the rivalries with Connecticut, Villanova, Pittsburgh, and Louisville over the last several years have become intense as well. But nothing has as much history and as much hatred as the rivalry with Georgetown. So as you turn on your television or walk into the Dome to watch the latest edition of one of the best rivalries in the sport, remember what makes this rivalry so special. Remember why you, as a Syracuse fan, hate Georgetown. Yes this is a battle between the first and second ranked team in the conference. There's an importance to this game for that reason alone. But we know this is so much more than that. It could be the only time the Orange play Georgetown all year. Beating the Hoyas is about as sweet as it can get for a Syracuse fan. "Great games make great rivalries. You can't structure that, you can't schedule it," Boeheim said. "It just has to happen."