Nebraska nice: Syracuse roots for New York namesake in NCAA tournament

Nebraska nice: Syracuse roots for New York namesake in NCAA tournament
Syracuse players practice Thursday in the CenturyLink Center. (World-Herald News Service)

Maybe Nebraska and Syracuse, New York, didn’t quite get off on the right foot, but a small town in the Cornhusker State is patching things up.

Some folks in Syracuse, Nebraska, will temporarily trade their Big Red gear for big orange when Syracuse University plays in Omaha on Friday in an NCAA basketball Midwest Regional semifinal game.

“A lot of people are really rooting for them,’’ said Carolyn Gigstad of the Nebraska town’s chamber of commerce.

Residents of the other Syracuse have been calling the Nebraska town to find out more about it and asking for sports gear from the local high school. And the Nebraska town’s mayor is getting peppered with interview requests from reporters in the upstate New York community.

“We’re having fun with it,’’ said Tomas “KC” Ortiz, the mayor of the Syracuse, 50 miles south of Omaha.

The Syracuse here was named for a salt mining entity in the other Syracuse that hoped to mine a big salt deposit discovered near what’s now Syracuse, Nebraska.

Some folks in Nebraska and New York got in a bit of a lighthearted squabble on social media earlier this week after someone in the Syracuse locker room was heard taking a little dig at the Cornhusker State.

“Nebraska is like Missouri,” the person reportedly said. “Flat and farms.”

Ortiz said his Nebraska town wasn’t ruffled. Because, you know, there are plenty of farms nearby.

Danny Liedka, head of the tourism office for Syracuse, New York, said he loves the bonding between the two communities, even though they’re 1,200 miles apart.

And he knows that it won’t hurt for No. 11 seed Syracuse to have a little extra fan support when the team faces No. 2 Duke.

“We need you guys to help put us over the top,’’ he said.

He said the two communities have more in common than one might think.

With a population of about 145,000, Syracuse is far from the biggest city in New York. That’s also the case with the Nebraska town of 2,000.

And Liedka said Midwesterners who visit his city often say that the New York community’s hospitality reminds them of home. “It’s a Midwest feel here.’’

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