Syracuse, Pitt bail on the Big East. Here are some initial thoughts

Rutgers might need to hire Craig James' PR firm to fix this mess. via media.nj.com

Michael Bolton’s performance at the Emmy’s has inspired me to make a Pirates of the Caribbean metaphor to initially explain Syracuse’s departure to the ACC.

Let's put it this way: Syracuse could either be Davy Jones or it could be Jack Sparrow chained to a ship, staring into never ending teeth of a Kraken. The Orange chose to be Davy Jones; therefore, they’re responsible for sending that Kraken to the rest of the Big East to be devoured and sent to an underworld lacking automatic BCS bids. (Also, let’s face it: no one has a problem with feeding the Kraken junk food like Rutgers and Snooki).

Chancellor Nancy Cantor released a statement (which doesn’t make a bad analogy about a bad movie sequel) about the move:

"We are very excited to be joining the ACC," Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse, and with its outstanding academic quality and athletic excellence, the ACC is a perfect fit for us. The ACC is home to excellent national research universities with very strong academic quality, and is a group that Syracuse will contribute to significantly and benefit from considerably.

As a comprehensive, all-sports conference, the ACC provides Syracuse tremendous opportunities for quality competition and growth in all sports, while also renewing some of our historic rivalries. This move will also bolster our continued efforts to look outward, engage, and extend Syracuse’s reach to key areas of the country, including the southeast, as we grow and expand our national connections to alumni, partners and the students of the future. We are pleased that Syracuse adds a New York City dimension to the ACC, a region in which we have built strong identity and affinity, and we look forward to bringing ACC games to the Big Apple.  Overall, for Syracuse, this opportunity provides long-term conference stability in what is an uncertain, evolving, and rapidly shifting national landscape."

So now some thoughts/analysis (partially culled from my Twitter feed and expanded on here).

  • Cantor’s last line says it all, "Overall, for Syracuse, this opportunity provides long-term conference stability in what is an uncertain, evolving, and rapidly shifting national landscape." She and Darryl Gross realize it’s time to bail before everyone bails on you.
  • There's also hypocrisy in that final line. Syracuse seeks long-term conference stability, but the Orange is the one creating it.
  • Football is undoubtedly better off for this move. Syracuse-Pitt isn’t a huge rivalry, but that classic Big East series will stay in tact. There’s history between Syracuse and Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College. The Orange is losing some tradition, but gaining back a significant amount as well.
  • Recruiting Florida and the Southeast in general should become easier for Doug Marrone. Greg Robinson essentially shut off the southern pipeline when he came to Syracuse, but Marrone has started to dig deep into Florida and Georgia to bring in the speed Robinson’s teams so sorely lacked.
  • As for basketball recruiting, the idea that Syracuse will suffer in recruiting is a bit off. OK, so the Orange won’t play in Madison Square Garden every March. The school won’t get to play in front of all those great New York City kids. So this will hurt the Orange’s recruiting in NYC, right? Well, no. Take a look at Syracuse’s roster from about the last decade. James Southerland and Louie McCroskey are the two best recent players to come out of New York City to play for the Orange. They haven’t exactly done much in their Syracuse careers.
  • The Orange gets its stars from all over as Jim Boeheim occasionally dips into the city to grab a guy like Southerland and McCroskey. The Orange will still get the occasional player from NYC even with this move to the ACC.
  • All this said, it’s important for Syracuse to play several games in Madison Square Garden per year just to keep a presence in NYC to benefit the University as a whole.
  • Until UConn inevitably ends up in the ACC with Syracuse, Boeheim needs to work out a deal with Jim Calhoun and UConn to play the Huskies in MSG each year. That kills two birds with one basketball as the Orange continues a rivalry and plays a high profile game in MSG.
  • UConn stopped its rivalry with Boston College after the Eagles defected for the ACC back in the early 2000s. That could happen again between Syracuse and UConn, but it’s hard to imagine with Boeheim and Calhoun being very close friends that they would stop the rivalry.
  • Again that’s all speculation in case UConn doesn’t end up in the ACC, but it looks like the Huskies want out as well:

"We have a lot to offer," Calhoun told CBSSports.com. "We're very attractive now. This isn't 25 years ago."

  • It’s also paramount to continue the rivalry with Georgetown. Yeah, that’s a no-brainer, but it needs to be said.
  • The same goes for Villanova. It helps the Orange that the Hoyas and Wildcats don’t have a football tie-in to this realignment mess and that both play home games in NBA arenas and need to fill the seats.
  • Yes, Syracuse loses the great tradition of Big East basketball, but it does pick up yearly games against Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland. That’s not a terrible trade off. The Big East has a contract with Madison Square Garden through 2016 to have the yearly conference tournament there. Once that is up (or even before that if the conference folds), the ACC could move in and rotate conference tournament sites, one of which would be MSG.
  • A general Big East observation: If most or all football schools bail on the league, you’ll likely still see a version of Big East basketball that will include the basketball only schools plus any mid-majors the league can raid. Candidates would include Xavier, Butler, Temple, and maybe even top flight CAA schools (though they have less incentive to leave the CAA because of football).
  • Rutgers note: The Scarlet Knights now must make the state of New Jersey look like pleasant. Luckily, NYC is right next door and has some of the world’s best PR firms. Rutgers might want to give them a ring.
  • The Big East has a 27-month exit timetable for teams leaving the conference. Hard to imagine Pitt and Syracuse won’t get around that. No one wants lame duck teams in its league. ‘Cuse and Pitt hanging around for an extra year or two does nobody any good.
  • I’m rooting for the ACC to rename its divisions. "Teams Formerly in the Big East" and "Teams Never in the Big East" have a good ring for division names. They’ll at least be appropriate.

I'm on Twitter here: @JamesonFleming

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