Colgate, Syracuse set to renew football rivalry

Updated: September 22, 2010, 9:14 AM ET
Associated Press

HAMILTON, N.Y. -- Dick Biddle settled back into a tan leather sofa on the second floor of Colgate's Huntington Gymnasium, a bust of Andy Kerr staring over his left shoulder.

"Everybody is excited," the 62-year-old head coach said Tuesday. "If you're a football player and you want to do it, you'd better be excited. If not, we're in trouble."

The rolling hills of the Chenango Valley in upstate New York are abuzz just a little bit these days in anticipation of the renewal of an old rivalry: Colgate vs. Syracuse on Saturday in the Carrier Dome.

"It's a little different than it used to be," Biddle said. "But I think it's a win-win situation. Hopefully, we don't go up and lay an egg. We got some publicity, some excitement out of it. That's what it's all about."

This game has special meaning for Biddle. He went to Parkersburg High School in West Virginia, where Syracuse's Hall of Fame coach Ben Schwartzwalder once coached. Schwartzwalder nearly convinced Biddle to play college ball for the Orange.

"I can remember going for a visit to Syracuse, and they were pretty good to me," said Biddle, who opted for Duke and starred at linebacker in the 1960s. "I almost changed my mind."

Colgate, which today plays in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, has always been a stalwart in football. It has had an impressive array of running backs over the years -- Marv Hubbard, Rich Erenberg, Mark van Eeghen, Kenny Gamble, Jamaal Branch -- and as recently as 2003 played for the Division I-AA national championship.

In bygone days, the tiny liberal arts school -- enrollment hovers around 2,800 -- was a powerhouse. Under the guidance of Kerr, its most storied coach, the Raiders went unbeaten and unscored-upon in 1932 -- including a 31-0 win at home over Penn State and 16-0 at Syracuse -- but went home for Christmas disappointed when they weren't selected to play in the Rose Bowl.

Syracuse has faced Colgate 65 times, second only to the 70 games the Orange have played against Penn State. Colgate won the first meeting with the Orange, 22-16 in 1891, the third year of Syracuse football, and still holds a a 31-29-5 edge in the series.

Colgate-Syracuse once was THE game in central New York. The teams played every year from 1902-61, except for four years, two of them during the world wars. Colgate more than held its own in the early days of what once was a heated rivalry that regularly attracted the largest crowds at Syracuse's old Archbold Stadium.

The 1951 game drew 34,000, more than double the crowd for Penn State the week before.

"It was big," said 84-year-old Al Short, whose extra point in a driving rainstorm gave Kerr and his Raiders a 7-6 victory at Archbold in 1945. "We captured Syracuse guys that had come down to soap windows and stuff like that, shaved and painted their heads, and the same thing happened with Colgate guys going to Syracuse.

"It was a great rivalry until Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little and all those guys came along," said Short, who plans to attend Saturday's game. "Then Syracuse was in a different class."

Syracuse has won 14 straight in the series, which was discontinued when the scores began getting out of hand. Schwartzwalder's national championship team in 1959 won 71-0 before 31,000 fans, the second-largest crowd of the season at Archbold, topped only by the 35,000 for the game against West Virginia, Schwartzwalder's home state.

Crowds shrank in the ensuing two years, 46-6 and 51-8 triumphs for the Orange, and the series was stopped.

Times have long since changed. Colgate now plays in the Patriot League, one of only two conferences at college football's second level that don't allow football scholarships (the Ivy League is the other), and Syracuse plays in the Big East.

The teams haven't played each other since a 52-6 Orange win in 1987 in the Carrier Dome. Saturday's game materialized after Northeastern University dropped football last November.

Even though Syracuse (2-1) has struggled the past few years, Biddle figures the game will be a tall task for his Raiders (1-1).

"I know this is a stretch game," Biddle said. "I can remember when Jim Brown played. I just hope he doesn't play Saturday."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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