This past weekend, it was announced that Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh will be leaving the Big East conference and joining the ACC.
My Syracuse Orange(men) are now part of the ACC. That just sounds wrong.
I have taken a few days to let this sink in. And in those few days, I have rationalized that from a business, relevance, and survival perspective relative to the current state (fiasco) that is college athletics, I can understand and agree with the move. Yet from a historical and emotional perspective, they are ripping out their athletic heart and soul and as far as I can see, signaling an end to the Big East conference as we know it.
Above and beyond any school in the Big East conference, it could be argued that Syracuse put the conference on the map. No disrespect to Georgetown, Villanova, Pitt, St. John’s and others. But to a high school kid, the spectacle of a sold out Carrier Dome and Brent Musburger saying “You are looking live at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY where today the Syracuse Orangemen will be taking on [insert team here]…” was (and still is) breathtaking. It drove athletes from Southern California to play basketball in the Big East and Syracuse, NY. Think about that for a second.
But this move is not about basketball. Its about football, money, survival, and relevance. The Big East was a basketball conference that tried to become a football conference. In my mind, no matter how hard it tried, it could never get the same respect for football as it did for basketball. In football circles, it was always second tier to the SEC, SWC/Big 12, etc. even though it had a seat at the BCS table. And in the end, that perception/reality was what did the conference in. The Big East’s basketball roots and success did not mean a thing.
The irony about this whole situation is that now the ACC has 5 former Big East schools (Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse, Pitt) and from what I have heard, two more may be on the way. So as was very accurately Tweeted the other day by Pete Abraham (@peteabe) of the Boston Globe, the new look ACC may very well end up being structured as follows:
And at the end of the day, what will they have really accomplished? The 5 (and maybe 7) former Big East schools will get to play each other again, with a smattering of vapid games against Duke, Clemson and Florida State mixed in for good measure. But we will lose far more – we will lose the beauty of what made the Big East – rivalries with regional schools and programs like Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s. We will lose the ability for fans/students (oh, remember them?) to take reasonable weekend road trip to visit friends at a rival school and catch the game. We will lose the Big East Tournament in NYC – where alums from all over the Big East have gathered during a week in March for the past 25 years to enjoy a week of non stop, heart pounding, bragging rights basketball.
Yes, I understand the necessity to make this move. But the sports fan in me is not too excited about it.