With tons of rumors and consternation over the state of realignment in college sports, a lot of Syracuse Orange fans have started to get nostalgic. We’ve seen people here and in other pockets of the internet where fans are simply suggesting that the Orange take their basketball and return to the Big East and let John Wildhack figure out whatever for the football program.
Look I grew up on Big East basketball. There was nothing better in the 80s and yes it was not easy to watch Syracuse leave the conference, but the Big East the Orange left wasn’t The Big East and in the last ten years it’s gone further from what it was. Yes, it’s a very good basketball league with some rivals of Syracuse and nothing beats the post-season tournament in Madison Square Garden. I can’t argue that it wouldn’t be fun to be back in the Mecca in March.
That’s not reality though. Syracuse isn’t spending hundreds of millions to renovate The Dome to move football to a MAC level schedule. The Orange aren’t big enough of a brand to play independent and even if you wanted to just schedule five road games against SEC/B1G schools to fund the program, it’s unclear how many non-conference games those leagues will end up playing.
The ACC isn’t the Big East. I get that but if the conference carousel stops with two 20-team power leagues that break from the NCAA let’s look at what’s left. Those schools can cash in on a giant media deal but if they leave nearly 300 D1 basketball programs which include schools like Syracuse, Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Villanova and so on what do you think happens with March Madness? On the women’s side you’d still have UConn, Stanford, Louisville and Oregon among the top brands in the sport. CBS and Turner will be paying $1.1 billion annually beginning in 2025 to broadcast the men’s tournament and even a slight decrease in that amount means there is still plenty of media value in the sport.
In some of the football talk, people think the B1G and SEC will end up playing their own post-season for national titles but if that blocks them from March Madness, do you think their fans will be happy? I don’t think the money-crazed AD’s could survive making a move like this so my expectation is that even after all this shakes out, more than two conferences will have access to the college football post-season. All the talk about college football driving the money is fine, but don’t overlook the money in college basketball and the leverage of March Madness. It might not be worth a billion per year, but there’s always money in the banana stand and in playing college basketball in March.