The war game: Syracuse-Colgate was once a fierce rivalry of scalping, kidnapping, fly-overs

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ All it took was a pact, and then nothing more than a verbal agreement, to try and stop the insanity of it all. It became too dangerous, too raucous. The store owners grew tired of having to board up the windows, and the Syracuse hotels no longer wanted to have to move furniture out of the lobby to avoid having it destroyed. All this trouble for a football game between Syracuse and Colgate. The memories will rush back into the minds of alumni who were once a part of the storied past Syracuse-Colgate rivalry weekends, when those weekends were at their peak. Alumni will remember the pep rallies, the poster contests, the — fairly — innocent kidnappings of students, the scalping, and maybe even the games, themselves. ‘There were huge displays outside the fraternities and sororities,’ said former Colgate player, coach and athletic director Fred Dunlap. ‘They all always said, ‘Beat Colgate,’ and the game always had a sell-out crowd.’ These were just a part of the unending, all-encompassing events of those long-forgotten weekends that have lost their excitement and draw.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text When Colgate and its following arrive in Syracuse on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN3), the excitement will be minimal. There’s no reason for there to be much, anyway. A Big East team in Syracuse meets a Football Championship Subdivision team in Colgate. ‘It was a David and Goliath type of situation,’ Dunlap said. Sort of like it is now. The 2010 Orange had an opening on its schedule for months. It couldn’t find an FBS school to fill the gap. As it turned out, SU didn’t have to look too far. Colgate was more than willing to fill the void for the first time since 1987. ‘Some time last spring, we were approached, as they were looking for a game to fill out their 12-game schedule,’ Colgate athletic director David Roach said. ‘I thought it would be a neat experience to play Syracuse this year.’ For both schools, the game seemed beneficial. But bringing back a longtime rivalry isn’t the only reason Roach saw this game as one he wanted to add to Colgate’s schedule. With the Patriot League debating whether or not to offer scholarships or only need-based financial aid, Roach said playing against a higher-division team like SU would show what Colgate’s schedule could look like if the Patriot League offers scholarships. ‘If we’re going to go with scholarships,’ Roach said, ‘we’d want to play a (FBS) school every year. We wanted to show that this could happen.’ The two schools came to an agreement last April to fill out each other’s schedule with a game against each other Saturday. That started the rebirth of the rivalry that has since lost its glory and excitement. Colgate is looked at as the underdog against Syracuse. But that wasn’t always the case. The mere appearance of the game on Colgate’s schedule benefited Dunlap’s ability to haul in players, back in the days of SU’s Archbold Stadium. ‘I used to use it as a recruiting tool,’ Dunlap said. ‘The fact that we played Syracuse meant that kids who wouldn’t get a chance to play somewhere else would come here.’ Overall, Colgate and Syracuse have played 65 times. Due to the glory days of Raiders football in the years preceding Dunlap’s arrival in 1976, Colgate leads the all-time series 31-29-5. And the series between the two teams continuously shifted between who dominated who. Over the first 20 games the Orangemen and Raiders met, Colgate went 13-5-2. From 1925 to 1937, the Raiders took 11 more games from the Orangemen. But starting in 1951, Syracuse began to take control of the series. Eventually, it became too much for Colgate — and the towns of Hamilton, N.Y., and Syracuse — to bear, and the series was cancelled for 20 years. But before the cancellation, SU expected to defeat the Raiders every year. ‘You seemed somewhat successful if you beat Colgate,’ said former Orangemen Richard Beyer. ‘You started out the season looking to the second-to-last game on the schedule to beat Colgate.’ The 1961 game was so one-sided, Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder sent 53 players into the game. When it was over, the lopsided defeat forced Colgate to shut the door on the longtime rivalry. The excitement had gone away. Continuing to keep the series alive for the purpose of maintaining the rivalry weekend just wasn’t worth it. But for years, this was as intense a rivalry as any. The game, itself, was just one part of a long and sometimes dangerous weekend for students on both sides. ‘It was fans, players, townspeople,’ Dunlap said. ‘People left in a mass exodus from Hamilton to head to Syracuse.’ The streets of Syracuse would be filled with students and fans celebrating the arrival of the biggest game of the year. If stores and hotels didn’t protect themselves from the overflowing crowds in the streets, there was no telling how much damage could have been caused. Dominated by nothing but school spirit, the rivalry weekend, filled with events and contests, put the Syracuse and Colgate campuses on football lockdown. ‘My fraternity always wanted to go down to Colgate’s chapter to take something from their house,’ Beyer said. ‘They always wanted our Saltine Warrior.’ The week leading up to the game left no student safe. Groups from both schools would drive to the rival school and find an unsuspecting student to kidnap and scalp. Once returned to their respective school, they would have an ‘S’ or a ‘C’ on the back of their heads. Syracuse students once tried to kidnap the entire Colgate band and take them to Thornden Park to scalp every member. The plan was unsuccessful, but it only showed the extremes these schools went to for the purpose of proving superiority over their rival. In 1958, three SU students rented a plane to fly over Colgate to litter the campus with pamphlets that announced Syracuse as the better team and to pour orange dye into Colgate’s Taylor Lake. Out of revenge, Colgate students retaliated by having a plane drop red paint onto Archbold Stadium. Eventually, it all had to simmer. A compromise in a neutral location was needed between the two warring parties. In 1949, student representatives from both schools met in Cazenovia, N.Y., the midpoint between Syracuse and Colgate. A pact was signed that outlawed vandalism and set up specific rules and times during which pranks could take place. The following year, a verbal agreement of mutual respect replaced the terms of the pact. Still, the agreement was often disobeyed. At least until the late 1950s, when the Orangemen overtook the rivalry to the point where the game became boring. The weekend was no longer fun, as Colgate couldn’t compete with the football powerhouse Syracuse became. The last time they played for a while was in 1961, when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis and the Orangemen handed the Raiders a 51-8 loss. Davis got the ball just once and threw his first touchdown pass of his career on a pitch to John Mackey for a 74-yard touchdown. Not even a two decade-plus hiatus of the rivalry could give Colgate a chance. ‘When I was there, it wasn’t much of a rivalry,’ former Colgate running back Kenny Gamble said. ‘With a lot of our fans, it was more hype than anything that we did.’ Gamble played in the game when the Orangemen and Raiders last met during the 1987 season. It was a mere reincarnation of the 1961 game, except with another Syracuse Heisman-hopeful. Syracuse rolled over Colgate 52-6 behind a strong start by quarterback Don McPherson, who led the Orangemen to an 11-0-1 season. ‘They really handled us physically. They were better than us in every aspect,’ Gamble said. ‘We kept it fairly close for a quarter.’ Twenty three years later, the rivalry hasn’t been reborn, only rekindled. The memories are there for those who witnessed the former boisterous weekends when the games triggered the truest — and sometimes harshest — feelings of school pride. But they remain unknown for those who were never a part of them. A part of the insanity. The boarded-up windows. The empty hotel foyers. The kidnappings. The scalping. The exoduses. The warring frats. The orange lakes. The red Syracuse grass. The flyovers. The treaties. But before the treaties, there were the wars. There was the war. On and off the field. Maybe the greatest war between colleges the state has ever seen. The greatest New York college football rivalry. For now, Colgate is the winner of the war, with two more wins than Syracuse. But starting Saturday, the big bully, Syracuse, will start its latest attempt to win the war outright. Even if it is now one solely waged on the Carrier Dome turf. Even if the Sheraton University Hotel and Conference Center and the Genesee Grande Hotel won’t have to clear their lobbies. Said Dunlap: ‘It was big time.’ [email protected] Commentscenter_img Published on September 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] | @chris_isemanlast_img

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