The story is well documented. 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 for Syracuse fans 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 appeared to eject Graham from the game. That official was Dick “Froggy” Paparo. A different official, Jodi Sylvester, overruled the decision and it was called a generic two-shot foul. Instead of the Orange having four free-throws and the ball, they 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. 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 technical fouls by three different officials after becoming enraged with a foul call. 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. Or 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 win. 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 was a thriller as recently as 2012, when a Kris Joseph (who scored a career-high 29 points in the game) three-pointer in overtime gave the Orange a 64-61 victory.
There has been controversy, as with Thompson's comments about closing Manley Field House, or the incident with Graham's punch. There was the incident in the 1985 Big East Tournament when Patrick Ewing and Pearl Washington exchanged elbows, leading to Ewing throwing a punch that missed Washington. Or when a Syracuse fan held up a sign that said, “Patrick Ewing can’t read this,” or when a Syracuse fan threw an orange onto the court while Ewing was attempting a free throw.
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. Georgetown responded by not releasing 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. A few years back, Syracuse fans threw beverages at a section of Georgetown fans in the Carrier Dome.
Some of the greatest in college basketball history have played in the rivalry. Think back to Patrick Ewing, Sleepy Floyd, 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.
There have been two all-time great college coaches, Jim Boehem and John Thompson Jr., who helped mold the rivalry into something special.
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 between the fans and players as the rivalry with Georgetown. The latest edition of one of the greatest rivalries in college basketball will be the last in the Carrier Dome between conference foes. It will feature a new record 35,012 fans, and wish Syracuse leading the all-time series 48-39. It will fittingly have first place in the conference on the line. It is what college basketball is all about.
"Great games make great rivalries. You can't structure that, you can't schedule it," Boeheim has said of the rivalry. "It just has to happen." Unfortunately, it will not happen in the Dome again as conference rivals.