Former SU football players share memories of beloved Coach Mac

Local News

Friends, athletes and those who worked with Dick MacPherson were hit hard with the news of his passing on Tuesday.

Coach Mac was a legend both on the football field and off. Playing for him meant you were playing for a man that expected more than just touchdowns or wins– his players knew he expected so much more.

“When you look at what Mac did for the community and the camaraderie… he was something special and not only as a football coach but beyond that,” said Blake Bednarz, who played on Syracuse’s offensive line from 1986-1990.

Bednarz started his freshman year 0-4 and ended his career on a much higher note, thanks to MacPherson.
“When you look at what was accomplished over those for years. It couldn’t have been storybook written any better,” Bednarz shared. “We started out my freshman year, 0 and 4, ended up 5 and 6. Went up 11 and 0, 10 and 2, 9 and 4.”

Bednarz says Coach Mac would light up any room he walked into, saying, “he stole the show,” no matter what.

“When people ask, ‘What was your time like at Syracuse? Why did you choose Syracuse?’ It’s because of Coach Mac,” Bednarz said.

As a true freshman, Bednarz embarked on a journey like no other in Syracuse Football history with Coach Mac at the helm.

Bednarz says notes and cards from decades ago still echo Coach Mac’s one-of-a-kind character.

“[He] was a great speaker in terms of when he would address the team he always had some very good anecdotal stories…communicated extremely well,” Bednarz shared.

The keepsakes from Coach Mac can be found in the homes of many of his former players.

Former SU Football wide receiver Scott Schwedes has game balls made by Coach Mac.

One of them marks the Nov. 16, 1985, game against Boston College. Schwedes had eight receptions for 249 yards — a program record that stood for 30 years until this past season when Amba Etta-Tawo racked up 270 yards receiving and two touchdowns at Connecticut.

“I don’t know a lot of head coaches that would ever do this,” said Schwedes about his SU game balls he keeps in a glass case alongside his other keepsakes marking his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers. “They would give it to some ball boy or some manager to take care of it.”

Schwedes also hangs on to a photo taken with his coach that last time he saw him and stood next to him inside the Carrier Dome.

“I cherish this and this is what he wrote to me, he wrote, ‘From signing day at 8 a.m. until now. Thanks, Coach Mac,'” Schwedes read.

After more than 30 years, Coach Mac still remembered the date and time he signed Schwedes to the team — 8 a.m. on Dec. 1.

“Rather than feeling the wrath of a coach and wanting to do well for him. You wanted to do well for Coach Mac because you wanted him to be proud of you,” Schwedes shared. “He genuinely cared for everyone like no other coach I’ve ever had.”

For former Orange tight end Chris Gedney, he was a “fan first,” he says.

Born and raised in Liverpool — Gedney was first introduced to SU Football and Coach Mac when he was 13. He was learning what it was all about.

“Even when Coach Mac took interest in me. I just considered myself a tall, skinny uncoordinated kid,” Gedney shared. “I always appreciated his vision and what he could see as far as my future went.”

Like Bednarz and Schwedes, Gedney says it was incredible to be recruited by the legendary Coach Mac.
Gedney played for the Orange from 1989 to 1992.

It was their coach’s focus on being a good person and respectful to others that has stayed with them years after the victories on the football field.

“It was faith, it was family and it was football, and not only did he tell us that every year, he lived it himself,” Gedney said.

It was 10 years ago when Gedney would find himself in the Dome’s broadcast booth with his coach long after he played for him. It’s a moment Gedney says he will always cherish.

“Shoes that I still can’t fill today,” Gedney said. “His voice, his diction. his content — his off-the-cuff content and comments.”

With every sentiment shared by players, fans or fellow coaches — Gedney says not one word is embellished — it’s all true.

“He’s the most beloved person in this area that I know,” Gedney shared. “It’s an emotional time. Mac was everything. He was a father figure in a lot of ways. He definitely changed the trajectory of my life.”

Blake Bednarz is leading the charge to organize a 30th anniversary weekend celebration for the 1987 team. The gathering will begin privately on Friday, Sept. 8, and a tailgate is planned for Sept. 9.

The Orange will play Middle Tennessee on Sept. 9 in the Carrier Dome during Legends Weekend.

Bednarz says he is sure there will be a tribute to Coach Mac that weekend and on game day, but the plans and discussions are still in the works.

Calling hours for Coach Mac will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 10, at Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University.

The service will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, also at Hendricks Chapel.

Parking information:

Starting at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, and again on Friday, at 11:30 a.m., free parking will be available in the University’s lots on the west side of campus.

These lots include Stadium (STAD), Standart (STAND), and Fine (FINE).  

There will be a shuttle service available to transport visitors to and from Hendricks Chapel. For those in need of accessible parking, go directly to the Q1 lot.


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