Five minutes into last week's Bucknell-Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome, Bison freshman point guard Steven Kaspar dribbled the ball toward the hoop and was stoned by fifth-year 'Cuse senior Scoop Jardine. The move caused an orange-clad fan (Syracuse orange, not Bucknell orange) seated in the first couple rows to yell "Number three! You are not an athlete!"
I'm sure Kaspar, the aforementioned No. 3, didn't hear the fan. But I did, and to tell the truth I was totally offended. Not only is Kaspar plenty of athlete -- you don't play college sports at any level without being an athlete -- but he his perhaps more student-athlete than any player on Syracuse's entire roster, same as every other player on Bucknell's roster.
That's not to say there aren't student-athletes on the Orange roster, but, let's face it, if you are going to Syracuse to play basketball, you have hopes of moving on to the NBA, not a boardroom.
Anyway, the game, and the fan's comment, just verified how different athletics are handled at universities around the country. I always knew there was this gap between the big-timers like Syracuse and UConn and the Bucknells and George Masons of the world. Maybe it means something different to me now than when I wasn't covering Division I basketball on a regular basis, when I was just a fan watching. But it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. At least it did mine.
One thing is also does is reestablish just how great those Bucknell teams of 2004-05 and 2005-06 were, a group that won games against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, St. Joe's and more.
I was given some hope after the game, however, when Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim spoke glowingly of the Bison. I wasn't around for the teams' game in 2005, but I've been told by numerous guys who covered the game that the reason Bucknell won that night wasn't because of anything it did, in Boeheim's mind, but rather what Syracuse didn't do.