In 2001 Virginia Tech hosted Syracuse in a meeting of two Big East rivals. The Hokies were ranked #4 in the country heading into the game, and hopes were high that Virginia Tech would continue being a national championship contender. The game was best described as ugly, and the weather was worse. Tech fell behind early, and never threatened in the eventual Orangemen victory. I attended that game, and like most fans, left dejected. The next day, the newspapers had the game recap as usual. That didn't catch my eye, as I was none too pleased to relive an embarrassing loss. Days after the monumental upset, stories began floating around about some chicanery. Syracuse kicker, Colin Barber, had allegedly used an unfair advantage in his field goal kicking. At the time, I chalked it up as a "sore loser" type deal, but in the age of the internet, I did some digging.
According to hokiesports.com, here was one version. Keep in mind this was was 2001, and the mainstream internet was in its' infancy.
"Syracuse kicker Colin Barber and holder Jared Jones used the leftover stem of a butterscotch Dum Dum to line up a 45-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter of Syracuse's 22-14 win over Tech. Barber made the field goal, which gave the Orangemen a 20-7 lead.
Tech's coaching staff went ballistic after they noticed Barber messing around on the turf before and after the kick. They brought this up to the officials and defensive coordinator Bud Foster even went out on the field and picked up the stem, but to no avail."
--hokiesports.com article dated October, 30 2001.
All the conspiracy theories in the world can't explain away why we were in the position to lose to unranked Syracuse to begin with, but I was fascinated. First there were logistics:How does one smuggle a lollipop onto the field during a major college football game involving a top five team? How does the Syracuse staff not know this was happening? What did the official do with the sucker stick presented to him by Bud Foster? What, if any was the reaction of the Big East conference? Again, the game was never really in question, but would it have been barring some fantastic field goals from the 'Cuse? When the story really started developing legs, the coaches got involved. During Frank Beamer's weekly press conference the questions were still coming. According to staffer Doug Wood of Daily Press, there were some interesting comments from the staff.
"I would never accuse (Syracuse coach) Paul Pasqualoni of anything that's not right," said Hokies coach Frank Beamer as he sat handling a lollipop which was planted by a reporter Tuesday. "We're too good friends and I trust him.
"The way the thing came up is we saw the kicker picking something up off the grass after he kicked the ball, and that was unusual. I mean, what would you be picking up? ... I thought it was unusual that the kicker fiddled around on the ground there before he kicked that (45-yard) field goal.''
After Barber's field goal that put the Orangemen ahead 20-7 early in the fourth quarter Saturday, Bud Foster, Virginia Tech's defensive coordinator, picked the lollipop up off the field and showed it to an official.
For the record, Hokies trainer Mike Goforth identified the candy as a "butterscotch-flavored Dum- Dum."
Beamer added that he and his staff had noticed on game film that Syracuse's kickers were placing something on the field. Beamer's staff alerted Big East officials, but no complaints were filed. Beamer said he discussed with his own kickers the potential advantages of placing the lollipop. The answer was that kickers often try to keep a perspective of 90-degree angles to the goalposts, and by placing a marker on the field, a kicker might be able to achieve this goal.
No one can debate that we lost that game, just like no one can debate the Patriots destroyed the Colts in the playoffs last year. The N.F.L. has made an example of Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots. The Big East did nothing with the Syracuse club. Is this an indication of the internet age we live in, or does that loss still resonate with me? Truthfully, its probably a little of both. We had the better team, and I was, for one of the few times, embarrassed at Lane Stadium that chilly afternoon. I don't mind losing, just as long as we play by the same rules. I have included the actual game tape of the 2001 tilt, and you can be the judge. It's still cool seeing Dwight Freeney in his college days, as well some great all-time Hokies. Special thanks to hokietapes for sharing.