At this time next week, Syracuse will no longer be a member of the Big East -- the conference it started -- and instead will be joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. We've known about this move since September of 2011, and still, it's weird now that we're just days away from making it official. Since we're not leaving the Big East (football or basketball) as we once knew it, the break is certainly easier than we thought it would be. But still, we here at TNIAAM thought it'd be nice to take a look back at some of our favorite moments in our longtime conference home.
Today, we start off by taking a look at our favorite Big East football moments. No, things weren't always pretty for the Orange, but all things considered, I'd say we had a pretty nice run over the past couple decades, no?
Matt McClusky: My first thought when I think Big East football is Chris Gedney and the three yard line. I still can't believe how close that game at the Carrier Dome back in 1992 was. The crowd, a legit 49,000 crammed in, the national television, I thought: Wow, this is Big East football? I mean, I wasn't exactly sold on Syracuse giving up its independence, but if I still had doubts, that game erased them all. Sure the Orangemen lost, but everything looked like it was on the up-and-up, conference and program.
Of course, the other thing that sticks out to me when I think of Big East football memories is a perfect juxtaposition: 2005. A new coach, new uniforms, new dome rug, new "conference" opponents, and everything just felt wrong. The losing certainly made up a big reason why things didn't seem "right," but after the first big conference realignment, when Cincinnati and South Florida were now Big East teams (kind of like Fake Razor Ramons) I knew SU had to get the hell out, and quick. That '05 season, across the Big East board, just cemented the fact that it was a basketball league mascaraing in football. It's sad to think those early 90s battle essentially mean nothing now, but still, Marvin Graves beaning a Mountaineer with a football, Hokies and 'Eers fans chucking oranges at the Syracuse sidelines, and Donovan McNabb slicing up Miami in South Florida (and worse in the Dome the following year) are still fun memories of what used to be. And luckily a lot of the old Big East is a part of the new ACC, too.
Dan Lyons: The obvious answers for me would be one of the two Pinstripe Bowls, or the bowl clincher at Rutgers in 2010, a game I was at with a fairly large contingent of SU students on an Otto's Army bus trip, but I'll go with a less obvious one. In 2009 we had a pretty big SU sports weekend, with back to back days of Syracuse basketball versus North Carolina at Madison Square Garden, and SU vs. Rutgers in football at the Dome the following afternoon. Clearly the basketball game in the Big Apple was the big draw here, and it lived up. , Andy Rautins, and company pounded their future conference foes and broke onto the national spotlight, and set the stage for an incredible season. However, it was the next day's football game that sealed a truly epic weekend for the diehard Syracuse football fan in me.
The #25 ranked Scarlet Knights rolled into town, and the Orange defense, led by Doug Hogue, proceeded to drill them into the Carrier Dome turf repeatedly and without prejudice. Hogue's 3.5 sacks and school single game record 6.5 tackles for loss, as well as solid efforts in the backfield by Antwon Bailey, Delone Carter, and Averin Collier helped cement an early marquee win in Doug Marrone's first Syracuse season. The team would fail to qualify for a bowl, but games like this proved that the program was heading in the right place.
Sean Keeley: My first thought was to discuss Syracuse's 1998 comeback win over Virginia Tech but I feel like that game has been talked about so much at this point, there's nothing left to add. Instead, what jumps out at me when I think of "Syracuse" and "Big East football" is the long-forgotten (by everyone except SU fans) Syracuse-Miami rivalry. (I use the term rivalry loosely, since we only beat them twice during our shared time in the conference). Even before I was a Syracuse fan, I knew that the SU-UM game meant something for the Big East. It was almost always the last game of the season and usually had some kind of conference title implications.
For a while, it seemed like Syracuse wouldn't score, let alone beat Miami, but at some point in the mid-90s, they started to creep closer. Yeah, I know that the Miami we crushed 66-13 in 1998 was not the Miami that used to do the same to us, but it was such an unbelievable catharsis for Syracuse Football, it didn't matter who was wearing those green and orange jerseys, so long as we were finally beating them. Even though we're conference-mates with the Canes again, we won't play them very often, so I don't see the "glory days" of that rivalry returning. It'll just be something that only we really remember about Big East football.
John Cassillo: Winning a piece of the final Big East football title will always be a nice memento from our time in the league, so I'm certainly thankful for that last year, especially made better by the fact that it was caused by a Rutgers implosion. But the best moment for me was the 2011 West Virginia game. The Mountaineers rolled in as the 15th-ranked team in the nation, but as per usual during the Doug Marrone era, that didn't mean much to the Orange. My college roomates, girlfriend (now fiancee) and I were in Vegas during the game and had parked ourselves at a sports bar in the Monte Carlo well in advance of kickoff. What ensued was a blur of offensive prowess (49 points!!), defensive fortitude (basically waterboarded WVU's Geno Smith for 60 minutes) and overall bold play the Orange faithful hadn't seen in ages. Partially assisted by the beer we'd been drinking all game, we proudly (read: loudly) shouted "Down the Field" while becoming "those people" at the bar.
I don't know about everyone else, but I've never been more elated or proud to root for Syracuse football than watching them massacre the 'Neers in front of a national audience. Vegas or not, it's a moment I'll never forget as an SU fan. To me, it -- even more so than the WVU win during the 2010 season -- announced the Orange were once again a relevant football program and put opponents on notice, even if we wouldn't deliver another performance like it until the 2012 season.
How about you guys? What's your top Big East football moment? Discuss all of your favorites (and ours) below.