It’s only fitting: Marrone, SU’s paths come full circle with trip to Pinstripe Bowl

first_img Comments Published on December 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm Facebook Twitter Google+center_img NEW YORK — When Doug Marrone recalls his first true sports moment, it brings him back home. To the Bronx. To Yankee Stadium. To a place that brought a community together. To this day, Marrone can recall the events and circumstances of that day. It was Oct. 14, 1976, and a 12-year-old Marrone watched and listened on the television as Howard Cosell called Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The legendary game where New York Yankees first baseman Chris Chambliss cranked a walk-off home run that sent the Bronx Bombers to their first World Series since 1964. Marrone’s neighborhood in the Bronx, just a few miles away from the action, exploded with excitement. ‘Everyone’s jumping down in our home, and we go outside and our neighbors are jumping up and down,’ Marrone said at Yankee Stadium Tuesday. ‘I think that was the earliest that I recognized what sports could do to a community or a town and how proud we were.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Now, 34 years later, Marrone is bringing Syracuse, his alma mater, back to his old stomping grounds to compete in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at the new Yankee Stadium. It brings about a small wave of nostalgia for Marrone, he admits, primarily because he sees some irony in it all. For Marrone, it’s only fitting the Orange ends its six-year bowl hiatus in a place he remembers fondly for its ability to bring a community closer. And when Syracuse (7-5, 4-3 Big East) takes the field 258 miles from campus against Kansas State (7-5, 3-5 Big 12) on ESPN at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 30, that’s exactly what the Bronx native is hoping to see. ‘I think it gives our fans an opportunity to feel the excitement of the program,’ Marrone said. ‘We’ve been in some tough times recently. I think this gives our fans an opportunity to re-embrace our program.’ SU and Kansas State have some history, too. The Orange and Wildcats have squared off twice in bowl games, splitting the pair. The Orange fell, 35-18, in the 1997 Fiesta Bowl before returning the favor with a 26-3 decision in the 2001 Insight.com Bowl. As Marrone stepped onto the field for the first time at the new stadium on Tuesday, he couldn’t hold back the smile. His grandfather worked as an usher for more than 15 years at Yankee Stadium, but Marrone never made it onto the field. Syracuse played in the first football game ever at the original Yankee Stadium, a 3-0 win over Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, 1923. Legendary SU running back Ernie Davis played in a game at the old stadium. Marrone intends to make sure his team knows that, and as he’s done each week prior to a game this season, he plans to teach his players about the history of Yankee Stadium and the history of the Syracuse football program playing there. ‘It’s exciting, Yankee Stadium,’ senior center Ryan Bartholomew said last Friday. ‘It resonates across the country as a place where great baseball is played. So being able to play football there, it’s a great experience a lot of people can’t say they did.’ Last week, Syracuse Athletic Director Daryl Gross said, ‘There couldn’t be a more perfect bowl for us to be in.’ It’s no secret that Gross has pushed to make Syracuse the most visible collegiate athletic program in the state of New York. Playing in front of a national TV audience at one of New York City’s landmarks can only help that. And the fact that Marrone hails from the Bronx makes it even more fitting. Yankees President Randy Levine made reference after reference to Marrone’s origins in the Bronx during a Pinstripe Bowl press conference Tuesday, even saying, ‘Bronx boy makes good.’ But Marrone insists this isn’t about him. Instead, he said it goes back to the neighborhood and the community. It was the Bronx 34 years ago. Now Marrone’s community is Syracuse. ‘As a former player and graduate of Syracuse University who grew up in the Bronx, it’s important for us to lay the foundation of our program in New York,’ Marrone said. ‘Does this game help us from that standpoint? Absolutely. Absolutely. But I also think it helps us to enjoy a reward that our players have worked extremely hard for.’ In just his second year since taking over a disheveled football program, a trip to a bowl is sweet for Marrone. Even sweeter is that the game will be where he has so many memories. Memories that influenced him to embark on a career in the world of athletics. For Marrone, the Pinstripe Bowl will bring his career full circle. It connects his alma mater with his childhood home. But he doesn’t want the attention, or the spotlight, on him. Instead, the lights belong on the players. That has been Marrone’s view all along. They are the ones that bring a community together. ‘I’m so excited for the players and so excited for this program, but I try to keep it in because it’s not about me coming home,’ Marrone said. ‘It’s about this football team and what they’ve done in a short period of time to get us back.’ [email protected] Asst. Sports Editor Tony Olivero contributed reporting to this article.last_img

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