As the Syracuse Orange and Connecticut Huskies prepare to face one another on the football field, there's an uneasy future ahead for this former Big East rivalry. The Orange are currently members of the ACC and are entitled to the money and exposure that grants them. The Huskies, meanwhile, toil in the AAC as they cross their fingers that the Big 12 or another Power 5 conference will eventually come calling to ensure their future in big-time college athletics.
Chris Carlson dug into the divergent paths the two schools have taken since conference realignment altered the college sports landscape in a piece for Syracuse.com. It's a great read but there's also a lot of interesting nuggets that you may or may not have known about SU's path to the ACC.
It's John Wildhack's Fault
Not really, but the current SU athletic director was the chief negotiator on ESPN's behalf with the Big East. According to Daryl Gross, Wildhack's offer was "terrific" but when league officials tried to compare it to a Pac-12 deal and wanted more, the whole thing fell apart and conference realignment was set in motion.
Syracuse talked to the Big Ten
You probably figured this, if didn't outright know it, but Gross says "Syracuse officials held informal discussions with the Big Ten about expansion" before talking to the ACC. You're welcome, Rutgers.
SU had no idea Pitt was coming, too
According to Gross, he didn't know that Pittsburgh was also having conversations with the ACC the same time Syracuse was. "We were kind of in our own personal vacuum." In fact, things were so hush-hush that not even some Big East officials knew it was happening until it happened, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Personally, I still think that says it all about the Big East.
It really was all about NYC
We can make fun of the whole Battle For Which College Team Owns NYC thing but that's literally what got Syracuse into the ACC.
The first round of realignment, McMurphy said, was made based solely on television markets. The ACC concluded Syracuse was its best option to capture New York. The second choice, McMurphy said, was about bringing respect to the league's football division, and Louisville was best positioned to do that.
McMurphy thinks that the timing was perfect as well because had it all gone down just a couple years earlier when UConn basketball and football were both doing well, the Huskies might have made more sense.
UConn needs to hurry
The writing seems to be on the wall for schools like UConn. Get into a Power Five conference or be doomed.
"You can do that for a little while," McMurphy said. "But it's not sustainable. It's kind of like buying a house with a credit card."
"People think I take pleasure in saying this because I cover realignment but I don't," McMurphy said. "It's sad. Rivalries are lost. You know that. … I don't think UConn is damaged goods but the reality is, unless they can get into the Big 12 or another conference, they can't compete over the long haul."