With Big East in flux, Syracuse was right to leave

Between the Big East losing its commissioner and the ACC announcing a long term pact with ESPN, this week was another sterling example that Syracuse made a prudent decision leaving the Big East.

On Monday, John Marinatto stepped down as the conference’s commissioner, not three years into a term that saw SU, Pittsburgh and West Virginia leave for different conferences. Another, TCU, set to join in 2013, instead opted for the Big 12.

By all accounts, Marinatto was a nice man who in a different era would’ve been an excellent commissioner. But in this era of super conferences and realignment, Marinatto helplessly watched while other conferences bolstered themselves.

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That is Marinatto’s legacy. He was reactive instead of proactive, and now San Diego State will play Connecticut in a conference game in a league that proudly capitalizes “EAST.”

Even worse, the Big East didn’t have an immediate successor.

Most years, this wouldn’t be a problem. The league could take its time finding the right person for the job. The ideal candidate would be someone who would have the ability to unite the remaining and incoming members, while being proactive to the conference’s needs.

But the Big East doesn’t have that luxury right now. The league is about to engage in its most important television negotiations in conference history with its deal expiring, and it doesn’t have a unified leader.

Meanwhile, ESPN and the ACC announced an exclusive agreement that runs through 2026-27 on Wednesday afternoon. Among the highlights of this deal include “more men’s regular-season and conference tournament basketball games, more conference football games, and dozens more Olympic sports competitions.”

How much easier could this decision have been in hindsight?

The Big East isn’t guaranteed a spot on television beyond next year while the ACC will be on ESPN, ESPN on ABC, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3 (you get the point) for the next decade. And the ACC has had stable leadership which has allowed it to poach the top schools from the Big East in the last 10 years.

Will the ACC have the same football talent as the Big 10, SEC or Pac 12? Probably not. But it settles in right behind that list and has become the top basketball conference in the country.

To be sure, Syracuse is leaving some of its biggest rivals behind. The Orange won’t play Georgetown and Connecticut in February and won’t battle for the Schwartzwalder trophy in October.

But the reality is the Orange wasn’t exactly the arch nemesis of DePaul or USF. UNC and Duke will be an instant rivalry (plus, SU can probably schedule the Hoyas and Huskies in non conference play), and on the football side, SU can rekindle its competition with Boston College and Virginia Tech.

In the game of conference musical chairs, Syracuse made the right decision.

It was reaffirmed this week, twice.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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