In just a few months Syracuse University athletics will begin anew in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Sure, it's been a move two years in the making (probably even longer for the more cynical Syracuse fan), but are you sure you're really ready for your Orange to battle the Tigers, Blue Devils, Tar Heels, and Phightin' Pheromones? (Only one of those is made up, but you'll never guess which one!)
See, there is a lot to know for the Syracuse Orange fan. Want to road-trip for a game but aren't sure if you should fly or drive? What about good ACC tailgate spots? Do you really know Tallahassee? Chestnut Hill? Do you really want to know them?
Questions, questions, questions!
Luckily for you, Mike Waters and Mark Bialczak have broken down Syracuse's big move: The Syracuse Fan's Survival Guide To The ACC. And even better, Waters, a longtime reporter for the Syracuse Post Standard (and frequent guest of my radio show) graciously decided to answer some questions I wrote him while reading the book -- a kind of running diary if you will (geez, why hasn't anyone ever thought of that before?!).
Enjoy: (And buy the book!)
So, let's start off with an easy one: How far up do you think this NSA security breach...Whoops, I mean, Orange fans have known about this move to the ACC for almost two years, but do you think they're really ready for it?
Mike Waters: I don't know if it's possible for Syracuse fans to be completely ready for the move to the ACC. I think most fans are ready for the move away from the Big East. They've seen the demise of the Big East. I'm sure Syracuse fans will miss the Big East Tournament at the Garden. Syracuse fans who live in the New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. areas will miss having the ability to catch the Orange on the road. But beyond that, I think Syracuse fans have come to grips with the reality that the Big East was no longer the Big East they had grown up watching.
As far as the move to the ACC, I think Syracuse fans are in for some surprises along the way. Syracuse fans are used to getting tickets to road basketball games. That's going to be much more difficult. The ACC doesn't play in huge NBA arenas, so forget the Orange-colored sections you see at Seton Hall and Villanova games. DePaul? Forget it. Even when Clemson's bad, Tigers fans still fill Littlejohn Arena.
But, I think it's going to be fun moving into the ACC. There's a sense of anticipation. It's a bold move. It's going to create a lot of excitement.
Right away I notice the detail into the book. You and Mark breakdown the history of ACC programs, along with the history of the school, and even the town -- along with giving some insight on where to grab a bite to eat or what sites to see should the SU fan roadtrip. So, is this info gleaned from years of traveling for work, or did you make specific trips more recently for the book?
MW: Mark and I gathered the information for the book in a variety of ways. We're both graduates of ACC schools. I'm a North Carolina grad. Mark's a Maryland grad. So we're familiar with most of the ACC schools. In recent years, I've been to Virginia, Georgia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina State. We didn't have to make any specific trips just for the book. When Mark or I needed to check something (like whether a favorite restaurant or pub was still open and still living up to its past reputation), we would call a friend in the area or perhaps someone from the school.
As a Tar Heel, how excited are you for the trips back to the North Carolina to cover Syracuse?
MW: It's no secret that I'm a Carolina grad. So, yes, I'm very excited about getting more opportunities to get down to Chapel Hill. But it's not because I want to put on some face-paint and cheer on the Tar Heels. I'm looking forward to seeing some of my college buddies a little more often.
As a sports writer, you have to be objective. I'll cover North Carolina the same way that I've covered Syracuse over the past (mumble, mumble) years. It can be done. Go back and read my game story of Syracuse's win over North Carolina in the Preseason NIT back in 2009-10.
OK, back to the book:
Wait -- when will Jim Boeheim retire?
MW: You're an idiot.
(Ed. note: Ducking the question, eh Waters?)
OK, now back to the book:
Whoa, Chuck Daly, Head Coach at Boston College? That blew my mind! There's a ton of things I'm finding while reading this that I didn't know that I feel like I should have known. What were some of the biggest surprises you encountered in researching the book? (I feel like the creator of Spanx being an FSU grad should be some surprisingly useful ammo for Orange fans.)
MW: Yeah, the Spanx thing was good find. Who knew that Leonard Nimoy was a BC grad? We tried to fill up the book with fun factoids about the schools, the athletic programs and the graduates.
You know how Syracuse's first football uniforms were pink? So were North Carolina State's. Pink and blue actually. Mark pulled that little nugget out of some research. Wake Forest is located in Winston-Salem, but that wasn't always the case. The school was originally located in, wait for it, Wake Forest, N.C. (You'll have to buy the book to find out why the school moved.)
A little over halfway through and I'm noticing a reoccurring trend: ACC usually means hoops, but between Clemson, Florida State, and names like John Heisman and Lawrence Taylor, the conference's football side has left a pretty big mark on the collegiate sports landscape.
MW: I'll throw a football tidbit at you. How about Brian Piccolo, yes, the guy from Brian's Song, being a Wake Forest graduate? (For your readers who haven't seen the movie, go rent it and have a box of tissues handy. The room's going to get dusty.)
But getting to basketball, will any program ever replace Georgetown in terms of pure hatred for Syracuse fans? My guess is Duke could come close early on, but that's probably more contrived out of the Blue Devils being a top tier program (a little like Miami was everyone's rival in football in the early '90's).
MW: Syracuse-Duke will be an interesting series, but I don't think it'll become the rivalry that Syracuse-Georgetown was. First of all, the Duke fans won't let it happen. Maryland tried to horn in as a Duke rival, but the Terps weren't going to crack the Duke-UNC rivalry. Duke students would even chant "Not our rival, Not our rival!'' at Maryland games.
Had Maryland not left the ACC for the Big Ten, I think the Terps would have been a natural rival for Syracuse.
I don't know which school will emerge as Syracuse's ACC rival.
Another point that jumps out to me the more I read, the distance between Central New York and the ACC. Sure, the Big East of the last few years covered a lot of territory, but outside of Pitt and B.C., SU should earn itself a lot of frequent flyer miles. How big of a role, if any, do you think travel could play in Syracuse's adapting to its new digs?
MW: The travel won't make a difference to the players (at least the ones on the football and basketball teams). They fly to every away game anyway. And they charter, so they don't have to mess around with security and baggage claim.
The travel is going to impact fans the most. (And sports writers. We don't charter.)
Out of the new places to go, what one road trip will quickly become the Orange fan's favorite on a year-in year-out basis? (I have to say, I'm a little surprised to read there's actually stuff to do in Winston Salem!)
MW: Clemson. I hear the Denny's there is awesome! OK, I'll be serious. I think Atlanta and Miami will be fun, for obvious reasons. Those are fun destinations. On the football side, Syracuse fans will come to like the atmosphere at Virginia and North Carolina.
Well, without question this book is a must for Orange fans -- something to be read as a refresher every season. Thanks for your time and we look forward to the season, and asking you what time the game starts and what channel it will be on.
Seriously, Mike, what channel is the game on!
MW: Please. Time Warner just changed all the numbers for its channels. I'm as confused as everyone else.