Syracuse is certainly unique. There’s an ungodly amount of snow into the early spring months, an unabashed love for a certain grocery chain and a mall that’s seemingly the size of a small town.
In the ACC, SU also stands out amongst the crowd. It’s the one of the few full time members that’s closer to a Great Lake than the Atlantic Coast and it is also the only school in the conference without a baseball team.
But as unique as Syracuse is, there seems to be an SU-esque school in every conference. I’ve broken down the Orange’s alter ego in major conferences based off of athletic similarities both historically and currently, reputation within the conference, the town and fanbases.
AAC – Cincinnati
Honorable Mentions: Memphis and UConn
Huskies and Tigers and Bearcats, oh my! Can’t wait for the angry mobs for these comparisons. “HOW COULD YOU COMPARE US TO SUCH CRIMINAL PROGRAMS???” “UCONN?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?” Yes, I am. Allow me to explain before you wield your pitchforks and torches.
Let’s start with the Bearcats. Cincy has been a historically good basketball program, especially over the last three decades. Along with hoops, the Bearcats have been a solid football program since the 1990’s, but never really worldbeaters.
Just like Memphis, Cincinnati and Syracuse also have name brand recognition as cities outside of hosting colleges. Now when you throw UConn into the mix, the similarities are all basketball-centric. The Huskies, Tigers, Bearcats and the Orange all have been led by some of the most iconic coaches in the modern era of college basketball. Between Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, Jim Calhoun, Bob Huggins and Mick Cronin, there’s been a lot of star power and a lot of victories on the sidelines for these teams. Oh, and also a lot of NCAA violations and vacated wins as well.
Big Ten – Purdue
Honorable Mentions: Indiana, Maryland, Northwestern
This was definitely the toughest Power Five conference to compare. Not because there weren’t similarities, but because there were so many programs that DID have common ground. That’s why I had to add a third honorable mention. Ultimately, Purdue takes the cake. Let’s be honest, the names Jim Brown and Ernie Davis simply don’t resonate with many modern football fans. That’s not to take away anything from their accomplishments, but rather a critique of the recency bias that overtakes the minds of NFL aficionados. That being said, Syracuse is a basketball school through and through. Just like Purdue. The Boilermakers are a contender to win the B1G every single year and are only respected across the nation as a basketball school.
Now while both of these schools breathe hoops, their football programs are on the rise. They’re certainly not going to be competing with Alabama or Georgia anytime soon. Heck, they won’t even be competing for conference championships for quite some time. Both teams have relatively new head coaches at the helm. Purdue is coming off a winning season that featured a bowl victory as well. Meanwhile, SU has one of the most dynamic offenses in the country and very well could be bowl bound this season. Along with their present-day similarities, fans of both schools cling on to a former quarterback as their football messiahs in recent memory. For SU, it’s Donovan McNabb. For Purdue, it’s Drew Brees.
Looking at the HM’s for the Big Ten, a couple of parallels stuck out to me. Starting with the Hoosiers, the basketball-mania is the obvious commonality. But the thing that prevents IU from being the perfect match with SU is football. Indiana is a brutally bad program that has only one winning season since the turn of the century.
Meanwhile, can Maryland and Syracuse just trade places? College Park is much closer to the coast and Syracuse is much closer to a lake. Case closed. But again, the basketball similarities here and overall school pride are very similar here. Along with that, both have historically great lacrosse programs and do so by dominating the recruiting scene in their backyards.
Lastly, Northwestern and SU both hold the claims of being private schools. Both thrive in one major revenue sport (Syracuse being basketball and NU being football). But each have thrived in a particular non-rev sport. Women’s lacrosse has been a strong suit for both programs. Oh, and there’s also the media rivalry between the Newhouse and Medill schools. That led to some great newsroom bragging rights when the two teams met up in football four times in six years in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Can we get the Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup that the media deserves? Or at least a Pinstripe Bowl or whatever they’re calling the new Wrigley Field Bowl?
BONUS DISHONORABLE MENTION: Illinois criminally copied Syracuse’s football uniforms. But that’s about as similar as the two programs get.
Big 12 – Iowa State
Honorable Mention: Kansas
The Big 12 and ACC don’t share a lot of similarities, but Iowa State is the closest to Syracuse. ISU is very similar to Purdue in the sense that they are known for their basketball above all, but don’t sleep on their up and coming football programs. Like the Boilermakers, the Cyclones made a bowl game last year in the early stages of a new coaching regime. While SU’s record isn’t bowl worthy quite yet, the Orange has showed that it is knocking on the door with big wins over Clemson and Virginia Tech the last two years.
In terms of the intangibles, the Syracuse and Des Moines/Ames market sizes sit just 17 spots away from each other. But if you drive 5 miles out of either city, you can find yourself in the middle of nowhere.
As for Kansas, both teams have some of the most historic basketball programs in the country and play in two of the most iconic stadiums in the Carrier Dome and Allen Fieldhouse. But the Jayhawks football program was too horrendous to put them on the same pedestal. KU has three wins over the past three seasons and haven’t put together a winning year since 2008. They are the laughing stock of Power Five football and have been for about a decade.
PAC-12 – Arizona
Honorable Mention: UCLA
When you think Arizona, you think of their basketball program. The Wildcats are the most rececnt PAC-12 team to cut down the nets back in 1997. However, when you think of THE name in PAC-12 basketball, the nod goes to UCLA. Just like when you think of the biggest name in the ACC, it’s Duke or North Carolina. Along with the teams’ on-court performances, SU and Arizona are two of the most defensive programs of their current coaches. Nobody goes to bat for Jim Boeheim quite like Orange fans do in any such situation. Likewise, when Sean Miller was under FBI investigation for allegedly offering $100,000 in exchange for Deandre Ayton, Wildcats fans refused to believe it.
UCLA was an interesting match for Syracuse. It goes without saying that basketball reigns supreme on both campuses. But a couple of factors separate the two. First of all, Los Angeles and Syracuse don’t compare as cities in any which way. The Bruins also have a far superior football program in recent memory. UCLA is a seemingly yearly staple in bowl games and plays in meaningful ones, like the Rose Bowl. But the two programs will have a similar charisma this upcoming season. Both Dino Babers and Chip Kelly love their fast paced offenses and will rack up a lot of yards this season.
SEC – Kentucky
Honorable Mention: Vanderbilt
In a conference full of football powerhouses, Kentucky is the basketball outlier. The Wildcats own the SEC in that department thanks to iconic coaches and the most talented roster in the conference seemingly every year. While SU and UK have built their programs in different ways, they’ve gotten to the same basketball promised land. Another hoops similarity is their fanbase passion. Syracuse and Kentucky are almost always the top two teams in attendance. That’s largely thanks to the massive seating capacities at both Rupp Arena and the Carrier Dome.
Vanderbilt gets an honorable mention because they’re both private universities. They also currently share the Matthew Moyer bond. SU and Vandy are both set to have some great basketball teams for the years to come with their promising recruiting classes.