The Syracuse University football coaching staff called it "The Pit," a campus attraction to be avoided during vists by potential recruits.
"Archbold Stadium was snowed under when I visited," said Joe Morris, the Orangemen's 5-foot-7, 177-pound sophomore tailback who has gained 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. "I couldn't see anything."
"It didn't look bad when you looked at it from the gym," said Craig Wo Wolfley, a 267-pound senior guard and pro prospect. "That's as close as I got to it. You didn't know how bad it was. The field looked good."
Frank Maloney, coach of the 5-4 Orangemen, who play Navy Saturday in Annapolis, likes to tell about his pregame chat with Lou Holtz, then in North Carolina State coach, during Maloney's first season after serving as an assistant coach in Michigan, where 105,000-seat Michigan Stadium is a showcase.
"You know, Frank," Holtz began, "If I was a young man and had my choice to go to Syracuse or N.C. State, I'd go to Syracuse, because I wouldn't have to use that visitors' locker room twice during my career."
It was more like a boiler room than a locker room.To reach the showers after a game, players had to climb a spiral staircase. But the rest of the stadium, which was built in 1907, was just as bad -- concrete slabs for seats; no decent parking within a mile.
Those days are behind Syracuse. Ground was broken last spring for the $26 million, 50-000-seat Carrier Dome. It is being built where Archbold stood, and is scheduled for completion in time for the 1980 season.
Meanwhile, in what may be a major-college first, Syracuse is playing its 11 games on the road this season, including "home" dates at Rich Stadium in Buffalo, at the Meadowlands and at Cornell University. Even with such a schedule, the Orangemen, once a college power with a history of producing running backs like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance, Larry Csonka and Floyd Little, have a chance to win seven games, a feat they have not accomplished since 1967.
Except that superb quarterback Bill Hurley had been given a hardship exemption by the NCAA and was coming back for a fifth season, there was little reason to think that a 3-8 team in 1978 would do much better without a home game.
Penthouse magazine, as a matter of fact, ranked the Orangemen in its bottom 20, citing the road schedule as the major reason.
In Ayer, Mass., about 20 miles from Worcester, the mother of star running back Morris heard about this prediction of doom from a neighbor.
She bought a copy of the magazine clipped the story and burned the rest of the magazine to keep it away from Morris' five younger brothers and sisters. She also called her son.
"She read me the article," Morris recalled," and said, 'It seems bad, Joe. You've got to prove to me the team's not that bad."
Following the third game of the season, after Morris broke Csonkas's single-game rushing record with 252 yards in a 45-27 rout at Kansas, the conversation between the strong inside runner and his mother went something like this: $ morris: "Hi, Mom."
Mrs. Morris: "YouVe shown people here and there that Syracuse doesn't deserve to be in the bottom 20."
Despite the winning record this season, there have been calls for Maloney's firing. In his six years at Syracuse, the Orangemen have compiled an 3-17 record against Penn State, Pittsburgh and Maryland. Syracuse lost to Penn State and Pittsburgh this year and Maryland is not on this season's schedule.
Maloney, 38, is a personable chap who says his greatest enjoyment in coaching is "having fun" with his players. Unable to sell a stadium, a city or a program, he sold himself to the players and counted on his ability to recuit the proverbial "sleeper."
"When I first came here, and I hate to say something disrespectful about former players," said Wolfley, "there were players who shouldn't have been here. You looked at their size. Now we have athletes."