It's back! The famed number 44 has been unretired and restored to the football program (watch full video at the bottom of the page), the school announced during a ceremony on Tuesday. The ceremony was a groundbreaking for "Plaza 44," a memorial for the number and the three most famous players to wear it, Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little.
Plaza 44 will be located outside of Ensley Athletic Center (the new indoor practice facility near Manley Field House) and feature bronze statues of Brown, Davis and Little.
"With the blessing of Floyd Little and Jim Brown, the number 44 is back," interim AD Pete Sala said during the ceremony. It was originally retired back in 2005 under then AD Daryl Gross.
A small committee will be put in place to award the number this time around. That committee will include Floyd Little and comprise a total of four or five people. Little also indicated his grandson was promised the opportunity to wear it in eight years. The number could be given to a true freshman, if they find the right fit, Little said.
"Wearing the number 44 was magical," Little said. "I was always challenged to live up to the standards of greatness they had set," referring to Davis and Brown.
Scott Shafer indicated during the ceremony that he has seen its impact on the recruiting trail, stating that it still resonates with 17-year old prospective student athletes.
"Number 44 is a culture," Shafer said. "It's not just a jersey number or a player...Number 44 is what's right about college football."
The number 44 has become an even hotter topic among Syracuse fans recently due to the recruitment of four-star running back Robert Washington. Washington committed to Syracuse last month, and has been the focal point, in terms of recruiting, of the number returning to the field.
"Yes he is (excited about its return," Washington's father said. "No. 44 has a strong football tradition as well as being symbolic of African American progress within college football history. Today is a very important day for the Syracuse program. Our family is proud to be a part of the Syracuse family."
Will he be the player that brings it back? That remains to be seen, and likely would not be announced until after he officially becomes part of the program.
Regardless of that scenario, it is a good day for Syracuse football. They honored their tradition while bringing back something that should have never been gone. Part of the program that is woven into its historical fabric. Fourty-four is back, and that is a beautiful thing.