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On Sports

On the Carrier Dome, the bad-luck Bills and Tiger

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By SCOTT PITONIAK
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
May 20, 2016

I’m happy Syracuse University has opted to put a new lid on the Carrier Dome rather than build an off-campus arena. By leaving campus, SU would have jeopardized student support, which is a huge part of the Orange basketball experience, with as many as 5,000 members of Otto’s Army routinely congregating in the stands behind the basket nearest the home team bench on game days.

The new, permanent roof will be made of steel support beams and a space-age plastic that will allow much more light into the building, giving fans an outdoor feel even though they’ll still be indoors. The roof no longer will be air-supported and will be noticeably higher than the current ceiling. There also are plans to add glass to the outside of some of the walls to enable people to see in and out. The plastic will be similar to what’s topping the Minnesota Vikings’ new $1.2 billion stadium and what was used at the “Water Cube” aquatics center during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I would have preferred a retractable roof, but that would have been cost-prohibitive.

One of the major challenges will be removing the old roof and installing a new one quickly enough so they won’t lose any home football or basketball dates. SU officials made that part of their proposal when bidding out to construction companies and found a firm that says this is doable.

They want to avoid a situation like 1979 when the Carrier Dome was being constructed on the site of old Archbold Stadium and the football team was forced to play its entire schedule off-campus, with two home-away-from-home games apiece at Cornell University and then-Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, and one at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. Back then, basketball wasn’t an issue because the Orange hoopsters played their home games at cozy, 9,000-seat Manley Field House.

It will be interesting to see what the renovated building will be called. SU signed a permanent agreement with Carrier Corp. for the stadium’s naming rights in 1980. At the time it seemed like a good deal, but 36 years later it no longer is. I wouldn’t be surprised if SU extricates itself from that contract so it can work out a better, more flexible deal to raise money to defray the $100 million-plus it will be spending on the dome’s facelift. Back when the stadium was being built, some of us alums lobbied for it to be named in memory of Ernie Davis, Syracuse’s late Heisman Trophy winner. But money trumped sentiment, and our efforts were quickly dismissed.

As I said, the new roof is expected to be higher, but it clearly won’t be as iconic as the billowy, white Teflon roof that has made the flying saucer dome the most distinctive edifice in the Syracuse skyline.

Just when it seemed safe for Bills fans to be optimistic again, they received the double-whammy Monday that first-round draft pick Shaq Lawson was going to need shoulder surgery and will be out until at least mid-October and that star wide receiver Sammy Watkins had a screw inserted into his fractured foot three weeks ago and could miss all of training camp. Lawson was expected to start and make an immediate contribution as a pass rusher.

Watkins, meanwhile, continues to be stymied by injuries. When he’s in the lineup, he’s a game-changer. No one is questioning his grit, because he has shown a willingness to play hurt. But you have to wonder when or if Watkins’ bad luck is going to end and his durability no longer be an issue. His absence hurts because you have a young quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, who was beginning to develop some good chemistry with Buffalo’s top receiver. The off-season and training camp reps would have only strengthened their on-field rapport. Oh, well, sadly Bills fans have plenty experience dealing with times that try their souls.

A day after Jason Day continued his golf dominance by winning for the seventh time in 17 starts, Tiger Woods was making news. It wasn’t just the three consecutive wedge shots he dumped into the water during a charity appearance, but also his comments about his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ record for major victories and Sam Snead’s record for PGA tour wins. With 14 majors, Woods is five shy of breaking the Golden Bear’s all-time mark and four short of surpassing Snead’s standard of 82 wins. “Nicklaus’ major championship record, I certainly think that’s attainable,’’ he said. “Sam’s record I’d like to get as well. I’m No. 2 on both lists, so it would be nice to end up No. 1 on both lists.”

It’s nice he’s put those carrots out there, but I don’t believe he’s ever going to win again. He hasn’t been a factor on tour since 2013, and his back surgeries along with a new wave of superb young golfers such as Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy has prompted even friends like Michael Jordan to say Tiger will never be great again. There is no timetable for Woods’ return, although interest has been piqued by the fact he has signed up for next month’s U.S. Open.

Actually, there’s another record Tiger won’t catch: Kathy Whitworth’s 88 professional tour victories. Whitworth, a true class act, surpassed Snead’s record by winning an LPGA event at Locust Hill Country Club in 1984. Slammin’ Sammy wasn’t happy to receive the news, whining that several of his wins in non-PGA events should have been counted on his ledger.

Charlie Weis clearly finagled one of sport’s all-time greatest severance packages from Notre Dame. Fired as the Irish football coach in 2009, Weis received $2 million a year through last year. All told, he pocketed nearly $19 million to not coach Notre Dame. Talk about a golden (dome) parachute.

Best-selling author Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist.

5/20/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.



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