The talk of Big 10 expansion is at the forefront yet again and it looks like it's on a shorter timetable than expected a few months ago. There will be plenty of discussion to come about whether or not Syracuse would/should go to the Big 10 if offered, and what will be done if the Big 10 pillages the Big East and Syracuse is left behind, but I want to discuss one thing: What would life as a Syracuse sports fan be like if Syracuse were in the Big 10? In what ways would things be better or worse in the Big 10? Let's break it down sport-by-sport and discuss...
Football - I think the pluses are pretty obvious here. The Big East is a weak football conference that doesn't command much national respect, while the Big 10 is tradition-rich. Syracuse would be playing big-name teams like Ohio State and Michigan every year, as well as an annual rivalry game with Penn State reignited. Even though the competition would be much tougher than it is now, potentially stunting the HCDM Syracuse Football Comeback Tour, I think the increased exposure and attendance at the Dome -- even if it is largely from out of town fans -- would be good for the team and the community. Recruiting would almost certainly improve, as well. There isn't really one entrenched football rivalry Syracuse would lose by leaving... Perhaps Rutgers or West Virigina, and SU could schedule them OOC.
Lacrosse - I think that joining the Big 10 really has no downside here. There is no Big 10 lacrosse league (although they may seek to start one... Michigan has been dominating on the Club circuit and they have a number of D1 programs already). This means that Syracuse could go back to freely scheduling as an independent superpower. Not much else to say here. Net gain, albeit an insignificant one.
Basketball - Really the most intriguing argument. I've heard a number of people saying that it would be a shame for Syracuse to go to the Big 10 because the basketball program would suffer. While it would be a shame to lose scheduled rivalry games (and potentially cut ties permanently because of bad blood) with UConn, Georgetown, and Villanova, I don't know that the basketball program really takes that big a hit in the Big 10. The Big East has obviously been at or near the top of the college hoops world since its expansion -- above the Big 10, certainly -- but the Big 10 isn't exactly Conference USA, and Syracuse's presence would strengthen the reputation of the conference nationally. I think recruiting and attendance would stay near constant, but playing in a somewhat weaker conference could also potentially mean that, if nothing else, Syracuse may have a better chance of finishing at or very near the top more consistently. You want to beat the best, but with the net gains in other sports, it might not be the worst thing to feast on a slightly easier conference schedule and pad those win totals (see also: Memphis, University of).
(And if any angry Big 10 fans want to rip me for this: I'm saying the effect is slight. Ranking conferences is overrated. But it's hard to deny that playing Iowa and Northwestern and Penn State once or twice a year each is a wee bit easier than playing everyone in the Big East once and a few tough teams twice.)
Non-Revenue Sports - I've heard issues raised that other teams may have trouble competing, or even raising the money to get to opponents' sites in far away places like Minnesota and Iowa, but 1) SU will have much more Athletics revenue to go around in a 12-team Big 10 and 2) Tampa and Milwaukee aren't exactly close, either. I think this is a wash, at worst.
I realize there are various factors in play here and this is FAR from a done deal, but I'm not talking about whether or not it could happen, just about what SU Athletics would be like if it DID happen. What do you think?