Big East and West Virginia Sue Each Other, Who Else is Enjoying this $hit $how

The Big East Conference is on the brink of extinction.  The reek of desperation coming from the Providence, RI headquarters is overwhelming at this point.  The same week the conference, which was started by schools located in the Eastern Timezone, went and invited Boise State in Idaho to join the conference.  By Friday morning, the conference filed a lawsuit against West Virginia University to prevent them from leaving the conference at the end of the school year.

Let’s quickly rewind.  The Big East has been under attack since 2003 when the ACC came after two of the key football members in Virginia Tech and Miami to leave the Big East.  This upheaval caused the conference to add inferior teams and put in place rules that said if any other team were to leave the conference they would have to pay $5M to exit the conference and wait 27 months before departing.

Fast forward to 8 weeks ago, and Syracuse and Pitt decided they wanted out because they were concerned they would be left without a seat at the table of big conference football.  I said at the time this was a brilliant move, and 4 weeks later I still think it was an awesome move.  The league said Syracuse and Pitt had to wait 27 months to leave, which they made no comment on, and they did so purposely I am sure.  Now West Virginia wants out to move to the Big 12, again great move by West Virginia, but this time, both West Virginia and the Big 12 say WVU starts play in the league next year.  WVU immediately sues the Big East to get out of the 27 month waiting period, and that brings us to today.

Here is what Mountaineers do.  As soon as they can, work with the Big 12 to put together the football schedule for 2012 and release it publicly.  West Virginia sets the dates, announces ticket sales, start scheduling TV coverage.  I can see it now, next September, lowly UConn shows up in Morgantown and finds their locker room occupied by Iowa State.

Syracuse, Pitt and fans of each team are just sitting back with a bowl full of popcorn watching how all of this is going to play out.  Talking with a friend who is in the know at Syracuse believes that there is a 50/50 chance that they will be in the ACC starting in 2012, thanks to West Virginia though he believes the odds have dropped.  The league is going to get injunctions and prevent all 3 from leaving until 2013.  The Big East should just move on, they are starting to look like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction.  Give up!

How does Syracuse stack up against the ACC?

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse.  We look forward to bringing ACC games to the Big Apple” – Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor

Now that the news is official and Syracuse is joining the ACC, it is time to breakdown how the Orange stacks up to the competition in the ACC.

The football team peaked in the late 1980s playing for the national title in the Sugar Bowl. Syracuse had a short renaissance in the late 1990s thanks to Donovan McNabb and down years by Miami and Virginia Tech.  Since then the program has been inept due to a much tougher recruiting environment on the east coast.  Once Syracuse had to compete for recruits with Penn State and Boston College, but in the 2000s Connecticut, Rutgers and Maryland all started beating Syracuse in getting recruits for football.  Moving to the ACC will only help Syracuse with recruiting.

The competition is going to get more intense as Syracuse has never fared well against ACC teams, though they beat Wake Forrest week 1 this year.  Syracuse football is on the rebound and the timing of the move to the ACC could help propel it even higher, though just as easily the program can become bottom feeders if recruiting does not step up.

The basketball team has never been stronger. Recruits regularly in the top 100 choose Syracuse, and the program has been averaging 25 wins and an NCAA tournament appearance for the last decade.  Losing the rivalries in the Big East was an inevitability as the non-football schools were most likely to get the boot once the conference expanded.  So those crying over the lost opportunities of playing Georgetown and Villanova, those games were going to be lost anyway.

This move makes sense for the basketball program.  The ACC gets two of the most consistent programs in the country (Pitt is also joining the ACC).  Even Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is excited:

“It’s actually pretty exciting,” Krzyzewski said. “I think it’s great for our conference football-wise, even better basketball-wise. Wherever this is going to end up, four big-time conferences or five, whatever it is, you want to be perceived as No. 1 in football and basketball.


Syracuse basketball not only will be fine, I actually think this move makes them stronger. Recruiting becomes easier as the teams are now geographically closer, and the chance for new rivalries with North Carolina, Duke and Maryland.

Syracuse joining the ACC is going to be rough on the lacrosse team. Recruiting will not be impacted because of the history of the program, but the games are certainly going to get harder. The Big East was a weak lacrosse conference, but the 4 teams in the ACC are all strong and usually but 3 or 4 teams in the NCAA tournament each year.

Non-Revenue Sports
The rest of the teams at Syracuse come out winners here too. The competition is closer by thus reducing travel and costs. The ACC takes non-revenue sports more seriously than the Big East, and even have a regional tv contract with Fox Sports TV for soccer, field hockey and women’s basketball. Non of that exists for the Big East.

While I will miss the great memories of the Big East basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden, this move ensures Syracuse’s athletics viability for years to come. The chancellor and athletic director deserve credit for taking a preemptive strike so the Orange were not left without a seat at the table for major conference athletics. I can’t wait to watch the Orange at Byrd Stadium and Comcast Center.