Atlanta's SU alumni paint the town Orange

Alumni, fans and students reveled in all things Syracuse at Hudson Grille on Friday, located in the center of the Final Four weekend events.

The corner of Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Marietta Street Parkway brings Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center and the Georgia Dome together in one cohesive neighborhood that screams Atlanta. For one weekend, Syracuse owns that corner.

Cardinal red peppered Hudson Grille’s outdoor tables on the intersection’s south quadrant Friday afternoon. One man even found the courage to add some maize and blue. But that vibrant orange of SU fans, students and alumni dominated the landscape. The Sour Sitrus Society made an appearance, joined by the cheerleading squad and everybody’s favorite orange mascot to round out the full experience.

Photo: Elise Grose
The SU band and cheerleading squad came out to put an orange stamp on the lead-up to the Final Four.

Latest on SU at the Final Four

Latest Final Four updates, photos, videos and more.

Hudson Grille’s four citywide locations have been the official home for all of the SU Alumni Club Of Atlanta’s game-watching events for the past two years.

The downtown spot just happens to sit smack in the middle of the Final Four hoopla.

The alumni club plays host to official SU happy hours at 4:30 p.m. and post-game after the two Final Four games. Ian Davis, president of the SUACOA, arrived Friday to set up at 1:30 p.m. for a 4:30 p.m. kick-off to the happy hour. Orange-clad fans were already trickling in by the time SU’s open practice ended at 3 p.m. The turnout was better than expected, even with the AT&T Block Party free concerts by My Morning Jacket and Zac Brown Band starting at 7 p.m.

SU junior Ryan Daleo and his six roommates—who rented a van in Binghamton and drove 900 miles in a miraculous 13 hours—read about the event on the SB Nation blog Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. For them, the Hudson Grille happy hour was a perfect kick-off to the weekend. “I love it. I don't see any Michigan bars or Wichita bars,” Daleo said. “Everyone's friendly, everyone's talking to each other. It really has enhanced our experience.”

It was enough of an enhancement to keep the group hanging out for several hours despite a 9 a.m. arrival to Atlanta.

Those not aware of blog or the alumni club's website had no trouble finding the gathering either.

Weston Johnson, a Newhouse graduate student, and his road-trippers parked underneath the Phillips Arena across the street in preparation for the Zac Brown Band concert. The sea of orange at Hudson Grille was practically the first thing they saw. “We had no idea what to expect. But of course we spotted the orange and gravitated towards it right away,” Johnson said. “This is almost too convenient. We’ve been here all afternoon.”

The alumni club's partnership with Hudson Grille is more than game watching, casual networking and beer drinking. Happy hours also serve as an opportunity for the alumni chapter to raise scholarship money for Atlanta-based student preparing to attend SU, students the club helped recruit themselves. Board member Arthur Vaughn (1992 graduate) helped cultivate the relationship with Hudson Grille. “They've been great with supporting us through gift cards, discounts for our members that allow us to draw people in. It's a win-win. They're making money but they also help support some of our scholarships.”

The university connections run deep. Assistant coaches Adrian Autry and Gerry McNamara, as well as legend Derrick Coleman all stopped by throughout the day to autograph basketballs for a raffle. Frank Harlow, father of Carmen Harlow (the first minority quarterback at SU), also stopped by to rouse the revelers.

For Russell Knighton (1987 graduate), an Atlanta resident of 20 years, the marriage of Atlanta as host and SU as participant in the Final Four is a real boon, taking him back to his own college days. “It means a whole lot to see all my friend here, coming in and asking for tickets," he said. "It's like living in Sadler again with all my friends coming in crashing on my floor and in my extra bedroom.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.