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Syracuse's "Burning of the Shoes" Tradition Was College Football's Weirdest Detox


College football fans will do anything to forget a bad season. It never hurts to crack open a beer or watch old highlights of the glory days to numb the pain.

Who wants to remember the heart-crushing losses? Who wants to keep the memories of poor game management? It's all about looking ahead to next year.

The football team at Syracuse University did something a little different. The squad from upstate New York burned their cleats.


Syracuse's "Burning of the Shoe" Tradition

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Dick MacPherson took over as the head coach of the Syracuse Orange in 1981. MacPherson was an above average coach in his 10 years, going 66-46. His best season, 1987, resulted in a Sugar Bowl against Auburn. His worst, 1982, resulted in a 2-9 record.

MacPherson wanted to forget those bad seasons as much as anyone. He came up with a plan. How about the players burn their practice cleats at the end of the year to cleanse themselves of the season? They'll have a fresh start and clear mind going into the offseason, he thought. We need to make the greater Syracuse metro area smell like a locker room, he thought.

So marked the beginning of a Syracuse Orange football tradition.


The burning ceremony was kept in tact under MacPherson's successor, Paul Pasqualoni. It continued to work under Coach P. His teams were always competitive in the former Big East football conference and he chalked up 107 wins in 14 seasons.

That brings us to the dark ages of Greg Robinson. Robinson got rid of the tradition and winning along with it. Robinson lasted three seasons as the head coach, posting a sad 10-37 record.

Former Syracuse football player Doug Marrone took over after Robinson and immediately reinstated the tradition. Marrone was an offensive lineman under MacPherson. Of course he was going to bring it back.


Scott Schafer carried on the tradition when Marrone left 'Cuse to coach the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Based on the lack of social media posts from the ACC football program's accounts, it's unclear whether current coach Dino Babers has continued the tradition.

Teams from Nebraska to Oklahoma to Florida State to Miami have traditions of their own ingrained in the fabric of the program. At Syracuse, they burn the bad juju out of it.

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