The list of uniforms honored with a spot in the rafters at the Carrier Dome reads like a who’s who of Syracuse University stars.
Jim Brown. Ernie Davis. Floyd Little. Carmelo Anthony. Pearl Washington. Dave Bing.
The list goes on and on, but with a glaring exception — there’s not a single female athlete honored on those walls.
That will finally change this year, and UAlbany women’s lacrosse coach Katie Rowan Thomson will be part of that inaugural group.
Rowan Thomson, a Delmar native and Bethlehem High School graduate who has been UAlbany’s head coach since June 2018, graduated from Syracuse in 2009 as a three-time All-American and the Orange’s all-time leading scorer. Her No. 21 jersey will get its spot in the rafters at a to-be-determined time in the 2021-22 school year, as will the uniforms of women’s basketball player Felisha Legette-Jack and rower Anna Goodale. Lacrosse legend Gary Gait, who now helms the Syracuse men’s team and who was the Orange women’s head coach during Rowan Thomson’s final two seasons in college, will also be honored this year.
“I’ve spent many days in the Carrier Dome,” Rowan Thomson said in an interview with The Daily Gazette. “Looking up there at Jim Brown and all the other Syracuse greats, I’m always so proud to be an alum of the Syracuse Orange. Now, to be up there is really, really incredibly special.”
Rowan Thomson found out about the honor in a meeting with Syracuse athletic director John Wildhack.
In a video posted to the Syracuse athletics YouTube channel, Wildhack told Rowan Thomson that in renovating the Carrier Dome, the athletic department, “came to a realization that we were really, really missing something, so we’re going to work to correct that.”
Wildhack then let Rowan Thomson know that she’d be the first Syracuse women’s lacrosse player with her jersey honored in the Dome’s rafters.
“Oh my gosh,” Rowan Thomson said in the video. “I’m blown away.”
It was a moment, she said, that came as a complete shock.
“I had no idea it was about to happen,” she said. “I was absolutely speechless.”
Rowan Thomson will be in good company with the two other female athletes to be enshrined in the rafters this year.
Legette-Jack graduated in 1989 as the leading scorer and rebounder in Syracuse women’s basketball history, and is currently the head coach of the University of Buffalo women’s team. Goodale graduated in 2005 having helped the Orange rowing team to qualify for the NCAA championships in 2002, and won a gold medal with the United States’ women’s eight at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Rowan Thomson led Syracuse in scoring in all four of her seasons with the Orange, and remains the program’s all-time leader with 396 career points and 164 assists, and ranks third in goals with 232. Her 142 points (73 goals, 69 assists) in 2008 also stands as the best season in program history, as she led the Orange to its first Final Four appearance and was named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top player.
Just behind Rowan Thomson on Syracuse’s all-time scoring list is another Section II product, Niskayuna’s Kayla Treanor, who took over as the Syracuse women’s coach earlier this summer after Gait was named the head coach of the men’s team.
Rowan Thomson was an assistant coach at Syracuse during Treanor’s first three years with the Orange from 2013-15, and the two will meet on opposite sidelines when UAlbany visits Syracuse next April.
That game is a candidate for the date of the ceremony to officially honor Rowan Thomson, but as it’s scheduled for a Tuesday, Rowan Thomson said finding a different game during a weekend is also a possibility.
“We’ll have to look at my spring schedule, and theirs,” she said. “I think we’re going to try and find a weekend.”
And while Rowan Thomson is among the first women to earn the honor at Syracuse, she’s just as excited to see the names that follow her in years to come.
“It’s going to be surreal when I first see it,” Rowan Thomson said. “I know that there’s going to be many more really incredible athletes, but specifically female athletes and women’s lacrosse players, up there.
“It’s going to be terrific to share some space with them.”