Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh are leaving the Big East Conference to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, the schools announced Sunday.
The move bolsters the ACC, and gives college athletics its first 14-team conference, while it sends the Big East scrambling for the second time in less than 10 years to attempt to save itself.
“We are very excited to be joining the ACC,” said Nancy Cantor, Chancellor and President of Syracuse said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse.”
Syracuse and Pitt will pay a departure fee of $5 million and will also be required to stay for the next 27 months. Syracuse is one of the founding members of the Big East, while Pittsburgh joined three years later in 1982.
The move increases the ACC’s reach in the northern area of the Atlantic coast.
“Pittsburgh and Syracuse also serve to enhance the ACC’s reach into the states of New York and Pennsylvania and geographically bridges our footprint between Maryland and Massachusetts,” said ACC commissioner John D. Swofford. “With the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, the ACC will cover virtually the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States.”
In 2004, the ACC raided the Big East and took Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Syracuse had been mentioned as one of those teams back in 2004, but ultimately stayed put. In response, the Big East added teams like Louisville, USF and Cincinnati to save its league and also its coveted automatic BCS bid.
Since then, the Big East has also added TCU to its membership, although even with the addition, the Big East will only have seven football schools next season.
The moves are the latest in a string of dominoes to fall as college athletics marches toward the superconference era of four major 16-team leagues. Last month, Texas A&M announced that it was leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference signaling the possible collapse of the Big 12.
That may prove to be a saving grace for the Big East, as Iowa State and Baylor have been rumored to have reached out to the Big East recently. Over the summer, Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas were reportedly in talks with the Big East as well.
The ACC is likely not done yet, either. Two more schools will be needed to reach the magic number of 16. Connecticut and Rutgers seem like two of the most logical targets geographically—although geography has had little to do with conference expansion in recent years.
More changes will be coming soon. For now, Syracuse has found a new home.
“In the ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics, each school has to find the best fit,” Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim said. “The Atlantic Coast Conference has a great basketball tradition and we look forward to contributing to that.”