Almost any eastern college is likely to be a disarray of old stone buildings looming above the trees of the small, unchanging town that it dominates. One notable exception is Syracuse University, which is sprawled across a hill less than a mile from the downtown business district of a busy city with a population of 225,000. Although Syracuse was founded nearly 100 years ago, which is par for an eastern campus, the demands of its growth have swallowed most of the landmarks of these years and have pockmarked the university with modern structures. The proudest tradition of Syracuse is perpetual forward motion—both physical and academic.
Syracuse today consists of 16 colleges with an enrollment of 13,800, more than half of them undergraduates. The students live in private homes and fraternity and sorority houses that surround the campus, or in dormitories ranged about the Old Oval. The Oval once was, as the name suggests, the heart of campus life, but new buildings have almost smothered it. Other landmarks are really disappearing. The Clover Club, a swinging beer joint that served as a hangout for students (and football players), burned down a couple of years ago and has since been rebuilt in glossier form, more efficient but less personal. Even the Corner Store on South Crouse Avenue and University Place, where generations of students have stopped to buy books or grab a quick sandwich between classes, will soon give way to a shiny building in the multimillion-dollar Newhouse Communications Complex.
One familiar building, 75 years old and still standing proud and stern as a chateau on the western slope of the hill, is Crouse College (above). Originally the home of the nation's first College of Fine Arts, it now houses the School of Music. Crouse is crowned by a lofty spire in which hang the Crouse Chimes, a set of nine sweetly tuned bells that melodically tinkle out the Alma Mater after every football victory. In recent years the chimes have had a lot to play about.
Syracuse students take their football victories much more casually than, say, Auburn. They dutifully pack 40,000-seat Archbold Stadium, the cold, chipped and battered concrete amphitheater that Syracuse claims is the oldest college-owned stadium in the nation (it looks it) for Penn State and Pitt, but they avoid the lesser games.
Life at Syracuse was not always this way. There was a time when the biggest social event of the year was the football game against Colgate. Alumni fondly recall raiding the Colgate campus—39 miles to the southeast—and happily shaving every head in sight. They remember, too, the postgame revelry, if Syracuse won, that often assumed riotous proportions with the sacking of downtown hotel lobbies and the derailing of trolley cars. All that is over now. Weary of successive 61-7, 34-6, 47-0, 71-0, 46-6 and 51-8 drubbings after Syracuse stepped up its football program, Colgate decided in 1961 it had had enough.
Syracuse's emergence as a football eminence was more calculated than accidental. Faced with a decision to go low-pressure or big-time after a particularly distressing season in 1948, the university decided on the latter course and brought in Floyd Burdette (Ben) Schwartzwalder, a former paratroop major who had been a winner at Muhlenberg. The first sweet success came in 1952, when the Orange finished with a 7-2 record but was whomped 61-6 by Alabama in the Orange Bowl—a shame that Syracuse has never quite forgotten or forgiven. Then came the Jim Brown era (1954-56), followed by the Ernie Davis years, and no one beat Syracuse badly, if at all. In 1959 the Orange won all 10 games and the national championship, then defeated Texas in the Cotton Bowl. The chimes in old Crouse College rang all night for that one.
They will be ringing again this year. Just the other day Schwartzwalder and Army's Paul Dietzel were chatting over lunch in a New York hotel. The conversation, naturally, was largely about eastern football. Dietzel thought it was never better and that last year's Pitt team was as good as any he had seen in his days in the Southeastern Conference. Schwartzwalder said he would just as soon play a Big Ten team as any of his neighbors. Then Dietzel spoiled the fun. '"Ben," he said, "I hear you have one of the finest teams in the country."
Schwartzwalder, predictably, blanched. But Dietzel was right. Syracuse, the best of a very fine group of eastern independents, possibly could challenge for the national championship—this even though Schwartzwalder lost almost his entire starting line.