Syracuse

1949 - 52 Orangemen
(Authentic Reproduction)

 

Schwartzwalder was a former combat-hardened paratrooper who expected his teams to reflect his character. A member of the West Virginia University Athletic Hall Of Fame for both his football and wrestling prowess, a combat paratrooper who left the service after engaging in D-Day action with the rank of Major and a slew of medals including a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and four battle stars, "tough" perhaps did not truly convey Ben's character. Known to "get lost in a phone booth" due to his single-minded attention to football, his "absent-minded professor" reputation served to balance his gruff exterior. With only twelve available scholarships per year, he began to build Syracuse football in his image. Baysinger had coached when the changeover was made from leather to navy blue plastic Riddell RT helmets and these were worn for the 1947 and '48 seasons. Coach Ben changed to an orange Riddell RT helmet with a one-inch white center stripe his first year, and the team improved from the 1-8 record of '48 to 4-5 in 1949 as the "run-first" philosophy of Schwartzwalder took hold. Sometime after Schwartzwalder established his way of doing things at Syracuse, a friend stated, "There are some supporters of Syracuse football who feel that Ben was not aware that the forward pass was legal." It did not take long for Coach Ben to clearly state his intentions that Syracuse would play hard-nosed power football. Working with the severe university-imposed scholarship limitations, he slowly built the team he wanted, improving to 5-5 in 1950 and 5-4 in 1951. Syracuse had the distinction of having Bernie Custis quarterback the squad in 1949 and '50, one of the first African Americans to take the pivot spot in big time college football. As a rookie in the Canadian Big Four League, the predecessor to the CFL, he was named Rookie Of The Year with Hamilton and has since been recognized as the "first Black quarterback in professional football." He was elected to the CFL Hall Of Fame after coaching in the league for thirty years. The í51 record might have been better if QB Pete Stark had not suffered a broken leg, a situation made worse when his replacement, Bruce Yancey also broke his leg in game action. The Eastís best punter and teamís starting safety and fifth-string QB Avatus Stone stepped into the pivot spot and the Orangemen closed out the season winning three of their final four contests. Stone became a polarizing figure to some at Syracuse and played in the CFL for five seasons, four with the Ottawa Roughriders and one with Montreal. He later played one game for the Baltimore Colts in 1958. Coach Ben produced a fine 7-2 record in 1952 and earned a berth in the Orange Bowl. Unfortunately, the disparity between the level of ball played by an emerging Syracuse program and that of some other parts of the country became apparent after Alabama took them to the woodshed to the tune of 61-6. Coach Schwartzwalder, although limited to twelve football scholarships per year, swore that this type of humiliation would never again occur. Eastern football was still of high quality and Syracuse had triumphed in í52 but they were at a definite disadvantage. The Lambert Trophy was awarded to the team voted to be the best in the East, a tough competition between Independents Syracuse, Penn State, Pitt, and the powerful military teams and The Ivy League, the latter still producing squads with national clout and respected individual players. The trophy belonged to Syracuse in '52 primarily due to the play of QB Pete Stark who threw for 1000 yards, usually to end Joe Szombathy, future Packer great and Pro Football Hall Of Fame member center Jim Ringo, and huge 256 pound tackle Bob Fleck who was the Orangemen's first All American. After the Alabama debacle, the team had to be content that they had at least received national attention and played Ben's kind of ball.

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