Dear Orange Friends:
It has been 30 months since I became a member of the Syracuse University community. During that time, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the heart and selfless effort of so many of our students. I’ve seen it in their academic work, social lives, and their community outreach. I have also seen the same traits in our student-athletes, who pour the same energy into their respective teams. Sometimes the result is a championship. More often, the result is simply the exhausted satisfaction of a communal effort. In every case, these young men and women proudly represent our university and community.
This is the real gift of what’s happened with both Syracuse basketball programs. Over the past few weeks, our men’s and women’s teams have raised a selfless ethic into the national spotlight. In Syracuse, we always believe in our Orange. Yet what these teams have accomplished goes far beyond the ordinary. Many observers gave them little chance of advancing deep into their NCAA tournaments. Through total commitment, these young men and women have gone farther than most analysts thought they could ever go.
On Saturday, I have a longstanding commitment to teach a two-day MBA course on campus that concludes Sunday. I will be watching Saturday’s game with students on campus, but I will be at every other game in Indianapolis and Houston. I am certain of one outcome. Just like every student in my class, every player will contribute. It might happen during the game. It might be due to months of hard work in a supporting role, in practice.
For that reason, it is disappointing to see some national commentators attempting to diminish these achievements. We’ve read and heard arguments that our teams somehow take these victories for granted. Some observers, without logic, tie our team and our student-athletes to problems that occurred before they came here. That totally misreads the nature of this success. We are proud of these teams because they embody the spirit of Syracuse. Our student-athletes clearly understand what their effort means to their university, to the larger Upstate New York region and to a joyous global family of Syracuse alumni.
If you ask for my most cherished image of the tournament so far, it is this: Michael Gbinije helped lead our team to a remarkable comeback victory over Virginia that sent Syracuse to the Final Four. Yet he quietly removed himself from that celebration on the court. Instead, he went to the Virginia bench. He comforted London Perrantes, who was overcome by grief after his team lost. The image was captured by Washington Post photographer John McDonald. The photo is perfect. It reinforces every aspect of what Syracuse is. Hardworking, resilient, and kind.
That gesture is a summary of the qualities that really matter. It is part of the greater meaning of an education. Certainly, I am proud of what both teams have accomplished. What makes me proudest of all is the effort and action shown by our young men and women. They epitomize the best of Syracuse in a way that transcends basketball. That, above all else, explains the joy we feel this week.
Chancellor Kent Syverud