Remembering the Life of Jake Crouthamel
The Syracuse Athletics community recently lost a legend. Former athletic director Jake Crouthamel passed away on November 6th. The former college football star retired from his AD position back in 2005 - which begs the question for younger SU fans - who was Jake Crouthamel, and what did he stand for?
“I don’t think people realize what a pivotal figure he’s been in Syracuse Athletics history,” said SU men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim. “He was one of the great real leaders of any place and what he did here - his vision, and what he did - what he accomplished.”
Jim Boeheim’s not wrong. Crouthamel accomplished quite a lot during his 25 year tenure leading SU athletics. Seven ncaa men’s lacrosse titles, 12 football bowl games, and a 2003 national championship in men’s hoops. But it wasn’t just about the accolades. Pete Sala is the chief facilities officer at SU and lifelong friend of Crouthamel. He thinks Jake's impact extended well beyond hardware.
“Well, I think he saved athletics!” said Sala. “The Big East saved eastern football. Everything that was going on then - the independents and people breaking off and going to conferences, they realized quickly that something needed to be done. I would tag him with saving football.”
Saving football - that’s high praise for a man that was a driving force behind founding the Big East. Getting the conference up and running is synonymous with his legacy, according to former big east commissioner Mike Tranghese.
“I remember the day Jake called me and told me he would retire,” Tranghese said. “With Jake departing, it was the end of a golden era, and Jake stood very tall in what I call the Mount Rushmore of Big East icons.”
And as Title IX came into the fold, Crouthamel even spearheaded the construction of new projects like a soccer stadium, hockey facility, and softball stadium. And we can’t forget the opening of the then-Carrier Dome, something Sala says Jim Boeheim wanted no part in.
“Jake dragging Jim Boeheim to this facility, kicking and screaming, leaving Manley Field House. Jim will talk about that - Jim and I are friends,” said Sala. “Think about that for a minute. What did that do for Syracuse Basketball overnight? So this building when it first opened was such a great, great asset for the athletic department. And what a great legacy for him to say he built that and was part of the decision-making on that.”
So to recap - if it wasn’t for Crouthamel, who knows what the state of Syracuse football would be, and SU hoops, well, they might still be playing in Manley Field House. But what about Crouthamel the person?
“I’m very proud to have worked for him,” said Jim Boeheim. “You wanted him in your corner. If he had your back, he had your back. He’s the kind of leader that made college athletics great.”
“He’s the guy I always went to,” added Tranghese. “Every crisis we ever had, Jake Crouthamel stood tall.”
“He shaped me to the man I am,” said Sala. “I wouldn’t be here without Jake and all the things he taught me. My son’s name is Jake, what does that tell you?”
Jake Crouthamel was 84 years old.