It’s been three weeks since SU officially joined the ACC. There haven’t been any games yet, so no major effects have been felt. Come fall, SU will see how its sports fare against teams from the ACC. I think they’ll fit in just fine. While the ACC is stronger than the Big East was, it’s not as high and mighty as it may seem.
I know this because I grew up in the heart of University of Maryland Terrapins country. Nearly everyone in Maryland roots for the Terps. Georgetown? Forget it. Too small of a fan base.
It was the ACC and UMD.
And when it was announced last year that the Terps were leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, everyone in my home state was just as upset as Syracuse fans were when Orange supporters found out SU was leaving the Big East. These teams had grown with their respective conferences, and were moving on to greener pastures filled with more dollar signs.
But since I did grow up in an ACC state, I have a lot of familiarity with the conference SU has just joined. Like the old Big East, it is basketball–centric.
SU is like the new kid moving to a new school. Whereas SU was popular in its old conference, matching Georgetown for the hottest ticket, the Orange will immediately be below UNC and Duke when it joins the ACC. But SU will hold its own.
Living in Maryland, Terps fans hate the Tar Heels and Blue Devils. But they also feel a sense of inferiority they don’t believe they deserve (though I think they’ll be even more inferior when they join the Big Ten). Terps supporters always felt the ACC only cared about what happened on Tobacco Road, and not up North. Which is partially true.
But Syracuse has a strong athletics program, so I don’t see the Orange being “unpopular.” But UNC and Duke will always be the ACC’s top dogs. And Florida State, Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech will always be football’s kings.
So where does that leave the Orange? In basketball, they’re still at the top of the pack talent-wise. The Orange will show that it’s just as good, if not better than those schools down in Chapel Hill and Durham. And in football, SU will hang in there. It can play with the aforementioned “kings,” as well as Georgia Tech, Pitt, NC State, UNC and UVA. And it can certainly beat Boston College, UMD (for a year), Wake Forest and Duke.
Starting this year, there will be more efforts to pull the North Carolina out of the ACC. With SU and Pitt joining the conference and conversations regarding moving the ACC basketball tournament to NYC, there is Northern movement. And when Louisville joins next year, another towering athletic program will have its say in the geographical wars.
In terms of football, the ACC is still no SEC. But it’s better than what was the Big East. And basketball-wise, it’s top notch.
Conferences and schools are undergoing change. It’s been that way for a few years, and the effects will be even more evident in the next few years. SU has positioned itself well to adapt to that challenge. It should only build off this past athletic year. Bowl win? Check. Final Fours in multiple sports? Check again. The Orange can more than handle its new competition, and can thrive in the ACC.
There will soon be no more Southern comfort for the older ACC teams. Here comes the Orange. And the wintry weather it brings along. Change, it appears, will be great.Rachel Marcus (Follow on Twitter @racmar)