Monday, September 19, 2011

Goodbye Big East, Hello ACC

I know I have got a lot of company when I say I am not happy about Syracuse leaving the Big East. The only thing that makes this palatable is that defections of this scale were going to happen to the Big East, and it is nice to see Syracuse proactive and choosing where it goes, as opposed to its Big East brethren who are now scrambling for replacements and/or a new home.

The ACC would be my conference of choice for the Orange. A rich basketball tradition, though down the last couple of years, some former Big East teams in the mix, and it covers a part of the country the Orange recruit from already (Maryland / Virginia and Florida).

The Big East stopped being the conference I grew up to love years ago. Those who are about my age would remember the formation of the league from primarily small private independent Eastern schools: Georgetown, Providence, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Boston College, St. John’s, Villanova and Syracuse. The Orangemen and the Hoyas were the prime time players the first year, with the Redmen, Nova and BC on the rise. A few years into the league history and the Big East had three teams in the Final Four, with the epic upset of the mighty Hoyas by Nova.

The league had home and home games for all the teams, and characters as coaches, ranging from the leprechaun Carneseca, to the rumpled Massimino, the hulking Thompson, and the whining Boeheim. Memorable college players such as the ultimate gym rat in Chris Mullin, to the dominating Patrick Ewing, the bullish John Pinone, and the speedy Michael Adams.

Football became very important in the college landscape, and the Big East found it had to add other teams to form a football league; else it would lose some of its members. The initial growth wasn’t too bad, though it started to monkey with the quaintness of the league, and some of the home and home games. But as the years progressed, the league continued to gain members, and became quite bloated.

The Big East became the dominant basketball league in the land, but members only played each other one time a year (which the exception of three home and homes). Legendary games such as the Hoyas invading the Dome would actually not occur some seasons.

So while I regret the Orange leaving the Big East, I realize the Big East I loved left the Orange a long time ago.

An irony could exist if some rumors play out. It is possible that UConn and Rutgers would also join the ACC, allowing the ACC to have a 16 team league. It would then split into two divisions. Hypothetically, let’s say they were a North and a South division. The North Division could be comprised of UConn, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Syracuse. If that looks somewhat familiar, it should, as that looks much like the Big East football conference in 2002.

The things I will miss the most from the Big East? Not having Georgetown as a meaningful game on the schedule each year, though I’m sure they will schedule that as a non-conference game annually. If UConn doesn’t come south, not having the Huskies to taunt. And not playing in Madison Square Garden each March, a special event each and every year.

Another question at hand will be what will this do to Jim Boeheim’s eventual retirement plans? Will it expedite the process? Boeheim loves Eastern basketball, the coaching camaraderie. Would the change be something enough to make him decide to step down before the move, or is his desire to keep coaching enough to have him lead the Orange into their new adventure?