Sports SUmmary: Pieces come together for football in lead up to season opener

Sports SUmmary: SU football players feel ready for unusual season already

Team has practicd through coronavirus concerns, roster shifts and loss of fans in preparation for kickoff against UNC.
Published: September 2, 2020
Syracuse University’s tight end Aaron Hackett (89), pushes through Western Michigan University’s defense for a touchdown. Syracuse University beat Western Michigan University with a score of 52-33.
Syracuse tight end Aaron Hackett (89), shown here scoring a touchdown against Western Michigan in 2019 says he's eager to be playing football again.

As the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences come under scrutiny for punting on the football season rather than going for a fourth-down conversion, Syracuse football is a week-and-a-half away from the first snap of this unconventional season.

“It’s a lot going on, but it’s just focusing on the little things, like what’s going to help you get better the next day,” said linebacker Mikel Jones. “There’s a lot of stuff going around but we just have to focus on what we can do and get better at.”

Despite challenges brought on by the pandemic, senior tight end Aaron Hackett also said he’s ready to take on North Carolina at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill a week from Saturday on Sept. 12.

“I know if the fields aligned and we’re about the snap the ball, I’m going out and I’m playing football,” Hackett said Tuesday. “If there’s going to be football, I’m going to be out there.”

Even with the schedule starting as planned, Hackett isn’t naïve about the fact that this “crazy” season will be different than any season before. No fans will be allowed in the stadium when SU plays UNC or the following Saturday on the road against Pittsburgh.

“The atmosphere is definitely going to be different, just not having as many people out there,” Hackett said. “But I also think it helps from a football aspect; it really just becomes a skills game. There’s not as much momentum, there’s not a home-field advantage.”

Syracuse’s first home game in the renovated Carrier Dome is scheduled for Sept. 26. Policies about fan attendance have not yet been announced.

Owens follows in father’s footsteps, joins SU basketball

Chaz Owens, son of former Syracuse All-American and professional basketball player Billy Owens, will join SU men’s basketball program after one season at Scotland Campus, a post-graduate program in Pennsylvania.

Prior to Scotland Campus, Owens two seasons each at Wissahickon High School and The Shipley School. In his final showing with Wissahickon, he put up 30 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the District 1 Class A playoffs.

In his senior season at The Shipley School, the 6-foot-5 wing helped his team reach a 20-6 record, averaging 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Chaz Owens will have big shoes to fill, following in his father’s footsteps by joining the Orange. In addition to being a two-time All-American, Billy Owens was the Big East Player of the Year in 1990-91 and tallied 1,840 career points in three seasons with SU basketball before being selected third overall in the 1991 NBA draft.

Football favorite Babydoll retires

After 50 years with Syracuse’s food services, Geraldine Williams – or Babydoll as she’s known to hundreds of SU football players and staff – has decided to retire.

Williams spent more than 20 years working with SU football, feeding a long list of players, including Donovan McNabb, Chandler Jones and Andre Cisco. She fed hundreds of players inside Manley Field House in a career that spanned five head-coaching changes.

Aside from serving food, Williams was also a motherly figure and a reminder of home for some players.

“Babydoll reminds me of my great-grandmother, who lives in Oklahoma,” said defensive back Eric Coley. “I felt like I had a piece of Oklahoma here when I met her. You know, real caring, doesn’t complain. You get in in the morning, she’s always upbeat – that’s just Babydoll. Definitely a piece of home.”

The team sent her off with a signed poster from the team, and some players exchanged numbers to stay in touch with the woman that made Syracuse feel like home.

“Babydoll is an icon,” head coach Dino Babers told “When you think about the number of head coaches she’s been around and the number of players whose lives she’s touched – it’s an amazing list.

“Babydoll is part of the fabric of Syracuse football, and we’re going to miss her.”

Boeheim mourns loss of Coach John Thompson

SU basketball coach Jim Boeheim spoke briefly about the loss of legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson, who died Sunday night at the age of 78.

Thompson coached at Georgetown from 1972 to 1999, leading the Hoyas to a national title and three appearances in the Final Four. Thompson was the first Black head coach to win a major collegiate basketball championship in 1984.

Despite a sometimes heated rivalry on the court, Boeheim and Thompson had become friends over the years in college basketball.

“He was one of a kind,” Boeheim said Monday. “There aren’t that many. He brought a presence to the game that nobody does, has. He was a great coach, but he was also a role model for a lot of coaches – white coaches and Black coaches.”