Big East Realignment: Why Syracuse is Safe & Who Should Worry

How the Texas A&M domino would effect the Big East & why SU is sitting pretty.

The college football landscape grunted, belched and seemed to move under our feet over the weekend, conference expansion and realignment rumors swirling everywhere. While Texas A&M’s much-discussed move to the SEC seems dormant for now, any potential movement within the BCS forces Syracuse fans to jump, like touching a door knob with static electricity.

It’s a sensitive subject for all of us in the Big East, the life raft that was left for dead in 2004 when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College’s departures were supposed to render the conference obsolete – pillaged and gasping for air.

Eight years later, the Big East’s basketball strength is unquestioned and the Supermarket Sweep decision by the ACC to grab all those high-priced football program salamis out of the cooler is not quite a slam dunk. The ACC’s basketball got watered down and its supposed superior gridiron product? Eh.

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But no one can escape the Big East’s tenuous national hold in football, and as we all know that’s what drives the bus. While the conference has a healthy payday from ESPN for the Big Monday package and the Big East tournament, all that huge TV money that gets thrown around for football and bowl tie-ins sounds pretty good.

The good news? Syracuse is in line to land on its feet if (when) conference realignment happens either to four 16-team super leagues or some precursor of that. Speaking with multiple sources with knowledge of the ongoing expansion talks, SU provides a solid enough brand, market share and academic reputation to survive college football armageddon.

Hypothetically, should the dominoes begin to fall and the ACC or the Big 10 begin grabbing new pieces, Syracuse would be in line to nab one of those slots. Here’s why:

  • Geography

In the northeast, which provides major television eyeballs, Syracuse is a commodity. Darryl Gross has attempted to market his program as “New York’s College Team” for exactly this reason. There are plenty of alumni that comprise a fan base in the Big Apple and Long Island, plus you own the Buffalo market. In this regard, Rutgers and UConn are also safe. RU delivers the densely-populated state of New Jersey, while Connecticut gives you the Hartford market. SU is also not fighting in-state rivals that would rather keep the footprint to themselves (i.e. Clemson vs. South Carolina, FSU vs. Florida). In this way, Pitt may forever be held out of the Big 10 by Penn State, Cincinnati by Ohio State, Louisville could be blocked by Kentucky and USF by any of the Big 3 Florida schools. Other losers: West Virginia.

  • Brand

While Orange Nation may lament the aging sterility of the Carrier Dome and debate whether Jim Boeheim can ever win another title, SU has built a strong brand within college sports. The Dome is iconic, The Per’fesser is a Hall of Famer, the basketball program is a perennial contender and football has produced recognized names in Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Donovan McNabb. Other winners: Pitt, UConn (hoops), Louisville (hoops). Losers: USF, Cincinnati.

  • Academics

While it might be drenched in insincerity, the academic reputation of a school is a constant topic of discussion for conference commissioners. Ultimately, Jim Delaney doesn’t care if Johnny Huskerseed graduates from Nebraska with a 4.0 or a 1.2 GPA. But the great charade in college athletics is the “student-athlete” and importance of “academic profile.” The Huskers were invited to the Big 10 because of football dominance and a national pigskin brand, but they also had to fit into the politics. The U.S. News & World Report ranks Nebraska lower than all 12 Big Ten schools, but its membership in the Association of American Universities, or AAU, gave it enough academic juice to make the jump.

Syracuse’s academic reputation is extremely strong, alongside Boston College as two of the highest-ranking BCS schools in the Northeast. Private schools like SU suffer when it comes to money for facilities (the lack of state-funding), but find strength in academics because its classroom standards are much higher than public institutions. Also, if APR numbers begin deciding what schools are eligible for the postseason (as last week’s NCAA discussions suggested), academic numbers become vital to conferences. Other winners: Pitt, Rutgers. Losers: Louisville, USF, WVU.

  • Numbers

Syracuse is specifically safe if the suggested “superconference theory” becomes reality.The ACC and Big 10 both need four more schools to make that happen, meaning a total of eight additional programs between the two conferences. That number could jump to 10 new schools if the ACC loses Florida State and Clemson to the SEC. Syracuse is solidly in that group because of the aforementioned qualities. Other programs guaranteed to be added to a superconference: Pitt, UConn, Rutgers.

SU would help itself by turning around the football program even more dramatically. While Doug Marrone has clearly put the Orange moving in the right direction, the glow of SU football from the ’80s and ’90s has worn off. Becoming one of the powers of the Big East would help tremendously and major upgrades on the facilities (like the Melo Center for hoops) can make the Orange stand out even more.

It may still be years away, but the constant shuffling and reshuffling of the BCS will always leave SU fans weary. If the superconference theory comes to fruition, those 64 schools would have the opportunity to break out from under the NCAA umbrella and create their own basketball tournament and college football playoff, while playing by their own rules and keeping all the cash. But fear not, Syracuse is set to be one of the schools in the getaway car. Let’s just hope we all don’t crash once we get there.

Posted: D.A.

27 Comments on this Post

  1. Carlton

    The BE needs to just go out an grab the last big chip out there and bring in boise. Who cares about travel!

  2. I think everyone should just cool it. Leaving the Big East may not be in Syracuse’s or any other team best interest for that matter. The lesson from BC, Miami and Va tech should serve as a lesson for us all. Everything isn’t everything you know. Miami and Va tech haven’t done squat since they left the conference. BC although market is big can’t sell out their facilities unless it’s either UNC or Duke for basketball. Also we all know neither UNC or DUKE is nothing in football. The ACC is nothing but a version of what the WAC used to be watered down and overrated. The only other conference that may make the most sense is the Big Ten. While I think it should be interesting for football, basketball will be joke. It’s Ohio state and everyone else. If the ACC should falter then we should go back and get what rightfully belong to us in the first place BC or Va tech. Geographically it makes the most sense and to rekindle the rivalries of BC and SU, Va tech and West Va it would be like old times. We wouldn’t need nova and we could kick out Depaul and move on.

  3. Whoa folks, lets put the brakes on here about Syracuse going to the ACC or the Big 10 conferences. D. A. shouldn’t the shoe be on the other foot? If the SEC raids the ACC, then I feel the Big East should go after and bring Boston College back to the conference where they belong and then go after Maryland.
    If Syracuse,UCONN, and Pittsburgh leave the league the Big East would crumble as we now know it.
    I once had the privilege of talking to ESPN’s football expert Beno Cook and his comment was,”it’s bad for college football that Syracuse and Penn State don’t play each other during the month of October each year.”
    I can’t imagine Syracuse not playing WVA anymore in football or them not playing Pittsburgh, Georgetown,and UCONN in basketball anymore.
    I believe that it’s time the Big East got off of it’s buttocks and invited Kansas, Kzansas St., and Missouri to the conference. Once that’s accomplished, the Big East would rule all of college athletics.


  4. Ron, I definitely cringe at the thought of SU losing its tie with G’Town and Nova, and the idea that Georgia Tech could be a conference game. But then again, with TCU/USF/DePaul added to the mix, aren’t we already losing the vibe of the Big East and its natural rivalries? Yeah, I still don’t know if I like it – my point here was just to soothe SU fans who were skittish that the Orange might be left out of the dance as things shifted.

  5. Why does everyone think the Big East will not be the 4th super conferance? The Big East is looking more lucritive then the ACC right now if you look at thier tv contracts. The ACC signed a tv contract that insiders are saying is not very good. The Big East is set to sign a new contract that people are saying is going to be better then the one the ACC has. And hopefully they wave that cash at Boston Collage and bring them back. This would mean the Big East would have the Boston/New York/New Jersey market locked down, and no school in the Big East would be crazy to leave the confrence. This all depends on BC but I think Syracuse and the Big East will be left standing when the dust settles.

  6. UBBulls

    “….plus you own the Buffalo market.”

    Not quite. SU’s alum association has just 2500 members in WNY, while UB has 65K. And do these tv ratings look like SU owns Buffalo? Just be pleased owning CNY and Downstate:

    2009 International Bowl UConn/Buffalo Sat Jan 3, Noon ESPN2 : 16.5
    2005 MAC BB Title Game Ohio/Buffalo Sat March 12, 7 PM ESPN2 : 13.7
    2011 NCAA Title Game Duke/Butler Mon Apr 5, 9 PM CBS: 12.9
    2008 MAC FB Title Game Ball St/Buffalo Fri Dec 5, 8 pm ESPN2 : 11.6
    2009 MAC BB Title Game Akron/Buffalo Sat March 14, 7 PM ESPN2 : 11.4
    2009 NCAA BCS Title Game Florida/Okie Sat Jan 8, 8 PM Fox: 10.2 *Bills/Tebow
    2009 NCAA Title Game UNC/Michigan St Mon Apr 6, 9 PM CBS: 8.4
    2010 NCAA BB Sweet 16 Syracuse/Butler Thu March 25, 7 PM CBS : 7.9
    2007 NCAA BB 1st Round Niagara/Kansas Fri March 16, 7 PM CBS : 7.8
    2010 NCAA BB 2nd Round Syracuse/Gonzaga Sun March 21, 12 PM CBS: 6.8
    2010 NCAA BB 1st Round Syracuse/Vermont Fri March 19, 10 PM CBS: 6.3
    2010 NCAA BB 2nd Round Cornell/Wisconsin Sun March 21, 3 PM: 6.3
    2007 NCAA BB 1st Round Duke/VCU Thur March 15, 7 PM CBS: 6.1
    2011 NCAA BB 2nd Round UCLA/Florida Sat March 19, 3 PM CBS: 6.0
    2010 BCS Fiesta Bowl Boise St/TCU Mon Jan 6, 8 PM Fox: 5.3
    2008 MAC FB Miami @ UB, Election Night Thu Nov 2, 7:30 pm ESPN2 : 5.1
    2010 Sweet 16 Kentucky/Cornell Thu March 25, 10 PM CBS : 5.1
    2010 BCS Bowls (5) Jan 1-Jan 7, Fox/ABC: 4.3 [Ave. rating for the 5 games]
    2009 BCS Bowls ave. excluding Fla/Okie game (4) Jan 1-Jan 5, Fox: 3.6
    2009 BE Tourny Syracuse/UConn Thur March 12, 9:30 PM ESPN: 3.2
    2009 MAAC Title Game Niagara/Siena Mon March 9, 9 PM ESPN2: 2.5
    2011 Pinstripe Bowl Kansas St/Syracuse Thu Dec 30, 3:30 pm ESPN: 2.1

    All data from The Buffalo News, T-W Cable

  7. mavblues

    UCONN alum here. Liked the article.

    From what I’ve heard privately, UCONN and Syracuse have agreed to stick together. If one goes somewhere, the other goes with it (package deal).

    Not too concerned about the details, though I’d like to see the chips fall sooner rather than later.

    Good luck to you guys this year.

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