Former Syracuse quarterback Todd Philcox has to wait until his fifth season with the Orange before becoming the starter. Replacing Don McPherson was not small task. Philcox had the unenviable task of following McPherson who had just led Syracuse to an undefeated season the year before, finishing as one of the nation’s best squads.
In 1988, it was Philcox’s turn to show what he can do. All he did was lead Syracuse to a 10-2 record and Holiday Bowl win over LSU. The Orange finished ranked 13th in the AP Poll and 12th in the Coaches Poll.
Philcox completed 60.3% of his passes that season while throwing for 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also caught a touchdown pass during the year. He was also fourth in the nation in passing yards per attempt at 8.9.
But things did not start out so rosy during his collegiate career. In fact, there was a point when Philcox almost left the program.
”Certainly things developed a little differently than maybe I expected when I was younger,” Philcox said. “When I was recruited, there was a different offensive coordinator and a different offensive system. Probably around my sophomore year was when George DeLeone came in as the offensive coordinator. That changed the system dramatically and they recruited for an option attack. That wasn’t something that really suited my talents as well.
”At one point, I considered possibly transferring but did not do so. Fortunately, George was able to adjust that system to incorporate my strengths. One of them was not running. It wasn’t speed and it certainly wasn’t as a standard option quarterback. But we did incorporate some of the option into the plan. It turned out to be a pretty good offense for me and for the program. It wasn’t something I would have predicted, but ultimately it turned out well.”
While leaving for a perceived better fit was weighed heavily, it was ultimately the relationships Philcox had formed, along with assurances from the coaching staff, that kept him at Syracuse.
”I was certainly happy with Syracuse and happy with the education,” Philcox said. “I built relationships there and change would have been just for my skills as a quarterback and where I thought they may have fit better. In the end, I was assured that I would get an opportunity within that system and that system would be adjusted.
”It was a good opportunity and I was just comfortable with Syracuse. I was happy to stay. Fortunately, I was just assured that I would get that opportunity to compete and that’s how it turned out. I was fortunate to stay there and enjoy the rest of my career there.”
Even though Philcox was only the starting quarterback for a single campaign, he looks back fondly on what he was able to accomplish that year.
”I just had the one season starting,” Philcox said. “Certainly as a whole, that’s a great memory. During the season, two games stood out. One was we went down to Penn State and beat them there. That was the first time we had done that in quite a while.
”Then, probably to culminate the season in the Holiday Bowl with a big win over LSU. Those were probably two of my favorite memories.”
Even with some turbulent times and trying moments, Philcox has only positive memories of his career at Syracuse.
”I’m very happy with the way things turned out,” Philcox said. “You never know how things are going to work out. Certainly I wouldn’t have predicted the career path I had at Syracuse. I would’ve thought I would have played earlier and had earlier success on the playing field.
”As it all turned out, I was very fortunate. If I had gone to a different school in a different environment, I may not have been given any opportunity. There are always injury situations and things like that. I’m happy with the way things turned out and wouldn’t change any of it.”