Well the last 48 hours sure have been fun, haven’t they? On Tuesday we were told by Syracuse University that the famed number 44 has been restored, and then yesterday things seemed to go sideways when the University issued what seemed to be a backtracking statement about the status of the (formerly?) retired number. And honestly, the only thing we should be doing right now is shaking our heads at the most needless and pointless clarification I’ve ever seen, because at the end of the day, the number 44 jersey can – and presumably will – still be used in the near future for the Syracuse football team.

On Tuesday, here’s what’s Stephen Bailey tweeted with regard to how the jersey number would be handled in the future:

Which, okay, that sounds reasonable. And to reiterate, this was a statement made on Tuesday immediately following the groundbreaking at Plaza 44 and the announcement that the jersey number would be brought back into the rotation for worthy student-athletes on the Syracuse football team. The key word being worthy, here, so please keep that in mind as we continue.

Yesterday, following a rather inappropriate Twitter rant by Donovan McNabb that brought unwanted negative attention and put a damper on what had been incredible positive buzz for the program, the University issued a clarification on the status of the jersey. And I cannot stress this enough: it was the most needless clarification I have ever seen. In fact, it had the exact opposite result a clarification should, by definition, have – instead of making things clear, it only served to stir up some muck and cloud the issue.

Included in the linked article above about the clarification,’s Chris Carlson says,

“The jersey, like before, will be bestowed on active players by an athletics department committee, and how frequently the No. 44 is donned on the field will be determined by that small group of men.”

And I ask – is that not theĀ exact same thingĀ that Pete Sala said on Tuesday in that tweet from Stephen Bailey? Basically, the University in all its wisdom decided that in order to placate one or two vocal opponents and ignore the incredible goodwill and positive energy that the announcement had created, they needed to restate what they’d already stated, just in a slightly more passive and confusing way.

Look: the only thing that changed from Tuesday to Wednesday is the phrasing that the University chose to use. That’s literally it. We were told Tuesday that 44 would be back on the field if someone was deemed worthy of wearing it, and that person would need to be a leader, a great player, a great student, and a great person. In other words, it would take someone extraordinary. Did that not seem clear to everyone on Tuesday? I don’t think anyone thought that 44 would just be randomly handed out to the fourth string long snapper with a 2.3 GPA and only one or two disciplinary issues. But Kevin Quinn still felt it necessary, at the urging of the University, to say that it would have to be “someone extraordinary given the honor it would be to wear 44.”

I quote the great philosopher Aristotle when I say: “Duh.”

And of course, the pointless clarification was snatched up by the local and national media alike, as was McNabb’s unfortunate Twitter rant. The guys over on Pardon the Interruption attempted to debate whether retiring 44 was the right move, without the slightest clue about the actual tradition involved. Rather than rehashing what I said on Twitter, here’s my own little Twitter rant in response to the national media trying to tell Syracuse what it should do with its traditions:

And now, today, the obvious storyline is that this somehow means that 44 is no longer available. That’s simply untrue, but it hasn’t stopped almost everyone from latching on to that angle in this story. And I hesitate to even call it a “story” because there’s really nothing to it, other than the fact that it was a goof on the part of the University to issue one of the worst clarifications in the history of bad clarifications. Syracuse said something on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday they said the same thing in a slightly different way. The assertiveness of “It’s back, but only for extraordinary talents” was replaced by the timidity of “But we don’t want to get anyone upset so only in special circumstances maybe kinda sorta…”

The message was clear enough on Tuesday what the intention was for the use of 44 moving forward in the Syracuse football program. The response was overwhelmingly positive from the fanbase, many of which thought it was an enormous mistake to “retire” the number in the first place. And now, with one unfortunate e-mail from Kevin Quinn, Syracuse has gone from enjoying a moment of enormous pride and goodwill…to yet another public relations disaster.

All the University had to do in order to avoid the flurry of articles and speculation and general negativity we’ve seen last night and continuing into today was to scrap that e-mail, because cooler heads should have re-read it and realized, “Wait, we’re just completely repeating ourselves. To the deleted items folder with you!”

So everyone, seriously, calm the hell down. Despite the spin being put on yesterday’s “clarification” nothing has changed. The number 44 can and will be used, and the way in which it will be handed out is exactly the same today as it was announced to be on Tuesday.

So hey, can we please just go back to being positive, and forgetting that clarification ever happened?

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Jeff is a 2003 graduate of Syracuse University, and has been published on various websites including,,,, and, among others. His work was featured in the New York Times bestselling book You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News. He's got a wife, and a toddler he's brainwashing to love Syracuse. Jeff's a pretty great guy, overall, and would never steal your car. Follow him on Twitter: @jekelish


  1. […] That’s not where things stopped, either. The confusion caused by the “clarification” of Tuesday’s announcement stirred up an inordinate amount of shit in the local media, to the point where that’s basically all anyone has been talking about over the last few days. And it doesn’t seem to have any end in sight, with members of the local media tweeting out sarcastic lines and trying their best to be funny, when all they’re doing is shining a massively negative light on the situation that, honestly, is a lot more clear than they seem to understand. Look, I get it: you don’t feel like actually stopping to think about what was said, and what the situation actually is despite it really being pretty clear. […]

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