Right up top, let's be clear. I know nothing about Syracuse University's plans for the Carrier Dome. Everything I do know if rumor, hearsay and conjecture. Everything you know is rumor, hearsay and conjecture. While I'm confident the final decision will be to renovate the Dome, we don't know for sure how this all ends. So consider everything you're about to read as completely hypothetical.
So let's say that the Carrier Dome is closed down for a year for renovations. For football, the solution is fairly "easy." Make sure you line up a MetLife game, maybe schedule a road game at UBuffalo and then make a deal with Ralph Wilson Stadium to play the remaining home games there. No other stadium within reasonable driving distance really makes sense.
Syracuse Orange basketball, however, is a different matter altogether. You're talking about stringing together 18-19 basketball games over the course of five months for a fanbase that's used to packing 20K+ into most games. Not being allowed to play in the Dome would create a serious issue when it comes to finding a dependable arena that can accommodate SU. The OnCenter only seats 8,000, so, while that would make a nice story, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
So I say if you can't find it, forget it.
Instead, what if Syracuse took an opportunity to literally become New York's College Team and barnstorm the entire state over the course of the season?
So how would this work? Well if we take an average season, we've got to work out where to play nine ACC home games as well as about 13 non-conference games. There's a few ways to make this easier on ourselves.
We take a road game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. We schedule another early season tournament like the Battle 4 Atlantis or Maui Invitational, which eats up three games.
That leaves us with nine non-conference games to schedule. If we schedule this out smartly, we're headed to Madison Square Garden that year to play St. John's. We're also headed to either Villanova or Georgetown for another classic rivalry game.
Now we're down to seven non-conference games. Here's where we can have some fun. Let's make sure we schedule all New York State opponents and, in a twist, we play all of these games on the road. For the first time since 1977, Syracuse heads to Hamilton to take on the Colgate Red Raiders. Also on the schedule? St. Bonaventure, Niagara, Buffalo, Canisius, Albany and Siena. We can play some of them in their home arenas or we can play them in the biggest arena nearby.
Each of these road games are treated like once-in-a-lifetime events. Mighty Syracuse Basketball, here, in our gym. Every time is a sellout. Every crowd is nuts. Every game is an event.
The rub, of course, is that Syracuse wants to use some of these same arenas as home games during ACC play. While none of them can match the Carrier Dome in size and familiarity, there's plenty that will do the trick for a year. First Niagara Center in Buffalo (19,200) and Times Union Center in Albany (15,229) are both within driving distance and can put enough butts in seats to make it worthwhile.
Remember, as much as those numbers look small, most college basketball programs would kill for 19K. We're just spoiled.
What about New York City, though? Surely we want to get back there more than once. Well, smart money would be on St. John's blocking SU from using MSG as a home court during the season. That's cool, however, because I bet Barclays Center (18,103) would be more than happy to make room for a Syracuse - Duke or Syracuse - UNC matchup. And if we're talking one-time deals, we can certainly look to Prudential Center in Newark as well.
All of this brings up questions about costs and travel and student-athletes missing classes. As for the last one, do you really think that's going to stop SU and NCAA from making bank? As for the first two, I have no idea how you coordinate all of it. Maybe you try to play these games in blocks. Spend two weeks in Buffalo, another week in Albany, another week in New York City.
On paper, at least, the idea of a Syracuse basketball season stretching from Buffalo to Albany to New York City would do a lot to cement the program's footprint across the state as well as make every game feel like an event, whether locally, regionally or nationally. Who knows if we'll actually need to consider a plan like this, but if we do, it sure could be fun.