All his life, Pat Manley heard the criticisms of the Syracuse student section at the Carrier Dome. It was always too quiet, too boring. That it lacked the creativity of other, better student sections around the Big East.
It is a perception Manley, a current SU graduate student majoring in political science, set out to change. So when the opportunity arose to do something about it, he made sure to take advantage.
Manley, a lifelong Orange basketball fan, is the creator of the gigantic Jim Boeheim cutout head, which has become a popular fixture at the Dome this season. ESPN has regularly shown the Boeheim head during television broadcasts.
What began as a stunt to generate laughs has turned into an unusual campus phenomenon, making Manley a minor celebrity among SU fans across the country.
“My whole goal, besides trying to be funny and make something hilarious, is that other people would catch on,” said Manley, whose great-uncle George is the 'Manley' of Manley Field House. “A lot of people have criticized the student section over the years for being a little lackluster, so I figured if I did something crazy, maybe some other people would get some ideas and be creative.”
“Big Boeheim,” as Manley calls his creation, measures in at about five feet tall and is composed of 30 individual sheets of paper glued onto foam board. It took him five hours one Friday night to construct it.
The head has spurned a series of imitators. Since Manley debuted the Boeheim head during the Orange’s win over Georgetown on Jan. 25, giant heads depicting Kris Joseph, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku, among others, have been spotted in the student section. The Copy Center store in Marshall Square Mall now has a sign in its window advertising its “head-printing” service.
Although Manley never expected this kind of feedback, it is exactly the kind of response he had hoped for.
“If I see this in 20 years when I come back for a game, I would be pretty happy about it,” Manley said. “I don’t really have any set goal for it, but hopefully it will evolve into something.”
In less than a month, it has evolved into something that extends beyond the Syracuse campus. Not long after Manley’s creation first appeared on television, a group dedicated to the Boeheim head appeared on Facebook. Manley has no connection with the group, which has about 6,200 fans.
Meanwhile, Manley’s personal Twitter page (@pmanley) has also blown up because of this endeavor. A friend of Manley originally dared him to put his cell phone number on the back of the head, but he refused, saying that he would have to change his number in about 45 minutes.
Instead, Manley decided to put his Twitter handle on the back, prompting messages from college basketball fans around the nation.
“I was getting tweets from people from all over the country saying, ‘I just saw you on ESPN,’” Manley said.
It seems the big head fad is just taking off, and Manley said he still has one giant trick left up his sleeve. Syracuse plays its most important regular-season game of the year Saturday, when No. 7 Villanova comes to town. The Carrier Dome sold out of tickets for the first time in SU basketball history for the Big East showdown.
Considering the magnitude of the game, Manley is making sure the heads will be present. But he’s not saying in what capacity just yet. That’s something he is waiting until Saturday night to unveil.
“I am trying to orchestrate something with some sign makers and my own personal efforts,” Manley said. “I don’t have anything specifically yet, and if I do, I’m keeping it under wraps. There will be a surprise for ‘Nova.”