Syracuse clarifies that No. 44 will only be worn in a 'special circumstance'

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Syracuse on Wednesday clarified its position on the use of the No. 44 a day after it received criticism -- including from Donovan McNabb -- after the announcement that a committee would pick players to again don the retired number.

Senior vice president for public affairs Kevin Quinn told in an email that the No. 44 will only be worn in a "special circumstance," adding it would have to be an "extraordinary" player "given the honor it would be to wear 44."

The school made the announcement Tuesday that it was bringing back the number at a groundbreaking ceremony for Plaza 44, which will be constructed adjacent to the new Ensley Athletic Center. The plaza, which is expected to be completed by the start of next season, will honor the great trio of running backs who wore the number and helped make it one of the most recognizable numbers in college football -- Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little.

Later in the day, McNabb, who starred at quarterback for the school from 1995 through 1998, tweeted his displeasure that the number, which has been retired since 2005, would be worn again. A small committee that includes Little will be formed to decide who gets to wear the number.

"Yesterday's announcement was simply a reiteration of that commitment and another opportunity to celebrate the great accomplishments of those who have worn the number with Syracuse pride and honor," Quinn wrote in the email to "The retired #44 jersey will continue in its place of honor at Dome -- as a symbol of past glories and future successes."

Since 1954, 11 players have worn 44 at Syracuse, none since the number was retired in 2005 and placed on permanent display inside the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse developed a tradition in which the number was passed down to a promising player. None matched the accomplishments of the honored trio.

Brown played for the Orange from 1954 to 1956 and led the team to a berth in the Cotton Bowl before becoming an NFL star with the Cleveland Browns. Davis led Syracuse to its lone national championship in 1959 and two years later became the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. Little is the school's only three-time All-American, from 1964-66.

The last member of the Orange to wear 44 was fullback Rob Konrad in 1998. In all, 25 players have worn the number at Syracuse.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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