Tell Me Something Good: A look back at SU’s first football game under the old Carrier Dome roof

Tell Me Something Good

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As Syracuse University begins a new era inside the newly renovated Carrier Dome, NewsChannel 9’s Tim Fox takes a look back at Syracuse’s first game under the old Carrier Dome roof, which Fox was there to cover. 

On September 20, 1980,  the stands were packed for Syracuse’s first game inside the Carrier Dome, Fox’s strongest memory of that first night was the heat. The temperature reached 82 degrees outside and there were 50,564 people inside the Dome, so you can imagine the heat!

“The hard part about it was it was hot for not only the players, but hot for the fans,” says Syracuse Football legend Joe Morris. “Had people passing out. One of the guys’ dad had to be carried out of the Dome. It was very warm that night in the Carrier Dome.”

The Orangemen were hot, too. After spending all of 1979 on the road, they were thrilled to be home, in front of hometown fans, in their brand new Teflon-topped stadium. 

Dave Cohen was NewsChannel 9’s sports director at the time, and followed the construction of the Dome closely.  

“Locally, it was like one of the wonders of the world. We went from ‘Crumbling Old Archbold’ to this magnificent, largest domed stadium, on a campus,”  

Dave Cohen, Former NewsChannel 9 Sports Director

The game was scheduled on Yom Kippur, and Cohen remembers coming straight to the game from services at Hendricks Chapel, after fasting for 24 hours. “We were very hungry, thirsty, tired. Then we walked into the Dome,” Cohen says. “The air-supported roof, the pressure was incredible. The noise, the heat, the commotion, the excitement. It was a very long, exciting, but physically demanding night.”

No one was hotter that night than Joe Morris. The running back had a big game in the S.U. win over Miami of Ohio, 36-24, including a 94-yard kick-off return for a touchdown. It was just one highlight in a stellar career at Syracuse, and Morris would be on his way to Orange running records that still stand, S.U. All-Century honors and a Pro Bowl career with the New York Giants.

That first season under the Dome would be the last for Syracuse head coach Frank Maloney, who died this March. However, Morris has fond memories of the man who recruited him and took a chance on an undersized player most schools ignored.

“Everything he said to me was the God’s honest truth,” says Morris. “He never lied to me. Told me the truth. He said ‘Look Joe, I need you to be a player you can be that we seen in the films.’”

“We didn’t know what we had,” says Dave Cohen.  “Joe was a little guy, about five-seven, but pound for pound, inch for inch, he was an unstoppable force.”

“I think that the Dome changed everything around about Syracuse football,” says Morris. “Just the fact that fans were so close to the field just made it something even more special.”

Cohen covered Orange athletics for nearly 25 years. He later called New York Yankee games on the MSG cable network and appeared in the film, “Glory Road.”  He says the Dome gave Syracuse athletics a national profile. “Suddenly, everybody in the country could see Syracuse football and basketball and lacrosse and women’s basketball as a result of the games being played in this building,” Cohen said. “It said this is big time. Big time. And people in California were as knowledgeable as people in Camillus.”

Joe Morris says he’s a big fan of current S.U. football coach Dino Babers, and thinks Babers has the team on track to bring Syracuse to another level. Morris still holds team career records for most yards rushing, most yards per game, most carries and 100-yard games. He says he has a lot of respect for what Syracuse and the Dome did for his future and for his family. His brothers Larry and Mike both played at Syracuse, while youngest brother Jamie was lured to Michigan by Bo Schembechler. 

Joe Morris says, “Somebody recruiting me allowed all three of my brothers to follow me with college careers, playing college football.”

Syracuse will look to have another thrilling home opener under the new Carrier Dome roof when they take on Georgia Tech at noon on Saturday.

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