Back in the heyday of conference realignment rumors and constant panic about “superconferences,” there was one blog that pretty regularly nailed the topic better than anyone else could.
Frank the Tank’s Slant was one of the leading voices in the ongoing conversation, digging deeper into the decisions that could and would dictate realignment rather than just rumor-mongering (‘sup, WVU Twitter). As the landscape has settled into its current state, Frank’s posts have slowed a bit, and understandably so. However, he was back with a pretty great read last week around Big Ten conference realignment and the league’s alumni bases around the country.
Using a Wall Street Journal database, he dove into where B1G alums migrate and how it helps the conference market itself to a national fan base. According to Frank’s work (via the WSJ data), most graduates from the 14 schools either head back to their respective home states, move to Chicago or leave the entire Midwest. Some of those cities you’ll find them in? Large hubs like New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver (among others).
Frank’s very clear that the Big Ten is not currently looking into expansion (and no other league is either given the Grant of Rights situations on TV deals for power conferences). But when looking at which schools could potentially be on the radar for the B1G, he uses the lens of the alumni migrations to dictate where makes the most sense. Kansas and Oklahoma are one option he’s floated for awhile. Grasping onto something Boston-related is another, and that’s where the Syracuse Orange come in. Per Frank:
Syracuse actually sends a similar percentage of its grads to the Boston market as UConn despite a farther distance from Upstate New York along with having the largest percentage of grads of of any FBS school living in the New York City market with the exception of Rutgers. While Syracuse is a private school, it’s a very large one where it almost serves the role of a flagship-type institution for New Yorkers. As a result, it has Big Ten-like attributes in a region where Ivy League and other elite private universities have historically kept public universities in a subservient position.
The discussion here frames SU as potentially being more interesting to the Big Ten than both Boston College and UConn due to where its alums end up (particularly, Boston and NYC). That’s before even taking into consideration how many SU alums make it to D.C. and Los Angeles, something that only further helps increase its stature.
Obviously that’s not the only thing that would ever earn Syracuse a mythical invite to the Big Ten anyway. Existing B1G member Rutgers would be unlikely to ever sign off on it, SU football would probably have to take some steps forward, it is still a private school, and it definitely isn’t the easiest fit amidst a sea of large, land grant state schools (and Northwestern). They’d also have an even tougher time recruiting in that league than they already have in the ACC. It would make it much harder to recruit Florida as well.
This isn’t to start up some rumor mill. Syracuse isn’t going to the Big Ten, and honestly, I don’t want them to anyway (and you shouldn’t either). As one of many private schools in the ACC, we have a path to contention and fit culturally. There are opportunities to be competitive in certain recruiting areas and those lanes would largely vanish in the B1G. The money over there is nice, of course. But it doesn’t guarantee success (see: Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois...).
It does make you wonder if we could’ve gotten past all of that had things shaken out differently at the beginning of the decade, though. As you’ll recall, we were in the initial conversations when the Big Ten first wanted to go from 11 to 12 (and ultimately chose Nebraska). At the time, the focus was more on the Rust Belt aspects of SU than the other traits that align them more with our current ACC brethren. It’s easy to see today how other ACC programs like Pitt, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech would probably be better fits than we could be.
But would you still rather be in the B1G, now or in the future? Share your own realignment fever dreams below.