The night before the Syracuse University football team played its season opener last September, the Orange received an emotional pep talk from SU football legend Floyd Little. Little, a running back who played for Syracuse from 1964 to 1966, delivered a simple message: Believe in yourselves. The Orange thumped Akron 29-3 the next day and went on to register its first winning season (8-5) and bowl victory since 2001.
“His message is powerful,” SU coach Doug Marrone said. “He told the student-athletes that they should not let others define you, but define yourself. It is a message we will always carry with us in this program.”
It’s a message that will now be carried throughout SU’s entire athletics program, because SU recently announced that it had hired Little as a special assistant to director of athletics Daryl Gross. Little, 68, will be involved in donor relations and special projects for the athletics department, and assist with student-athlete and team development and on-campus recruitment activities. “He will truly be a global ambassador for our great institution,” Gross said.
Little was a three-time all-America at SU and a five-time Pro Bowl selection with the NFL’s Denver Broncos. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Little said he believes Gross has the football program on its way to a national championship, and “I truly want to be a part of that. I have so much passion for young people and want to do all I can to help them. I am glad that I can now give to students at Syracuse University, which has given so much to me.”
Little’s hiring was one highlight from a busy spring for SU athletics. Here’s other news from the ’Cuse:
• The No. 1-ranked SU lacrosse team received the top seed in this year’s 16-team NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championship and will face Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Siena in the first round at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, at the Carrier Dome (ESPNU).
The Orange (14-1) will be looking for its 12th national title and third in the last four years. If SU beats Siena (13-4), it will face either No. 8-seed North Carolina or Maryland in the quarterfinals on May 22 in Foxborough, Mass.
Tickets for Sunday’s game are $10 for adults, $5 for SU students and children 12 and under. They are on sale at the Carrier Dome box office and SUathletics.com.
• Little isn’t the only one-time Orange star coming back to Syracuse. SU recently hired former guard Adrian Autry as an assistant basketball coach to replace Rob Murphy, who left to become head coach at Eastern Michigan. Autry was a McDonald’s all-America who started four years for the Orange and ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in assists (fifth with 631) and steals (sixth with 217). Autry became a coach in 2006 after a long professional playing career in Europe, and he spent the past three years at Virginia Tech as director of basketball operations and then assistant coach.
• Two former SU players were nabbed in the NFL draft at the end of April. Running back Delone Carter was selected in the fourth round (119th overall) by the Indianapolis Colts, while linebacker Doug Hogue was picked in the fifth round (157th overall) by the Detroit Lions.
Carter was SU’s highest draft pick since Tanard Jackson (106th by Tampa Bay in 2007) and the first Orange running back chosen in the NFL draft since Chris Davis in 2003 (165th by Seattle). Carter, who ranks third on SU’s all-time rushing list with 3,104 yards, joins an Indianapolis team that has stockpiled several former SU players over the years, including current Colts Dwight Freeney and Taj Smith.
Hogue was the first SU linebacker selected since Keith Bullock, a first-rounder by Tennessee in 2000. Hogue didn’t become a linebacker until 2009, but he caught the attention of NFL scouts this past season with 95 tackles (60 solo), two interceptions and one forced fumble.
• Since the Orange originally released its 2011 football schedule in mid-March, the game against West Virginia at the Carrier Dome has been moved from Saturday, Oct. 22, to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, and will be televised nationally on either ESPN or ESPN2.
It’s the first of two Friday-night games for the Orange; SU will also play South Florida at 8 p.m. Nov. 11 (ESPN2).
SU also announced that it extended its current working relationship with New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to include 10 more games between 2019 and 2038. The initial agreement included four games: Southern California in 2012, Penn State in 2013 and Notre Dame in 2014 and 2016.