Orange Watch: In the end, Syracuse “Fired” the Big East

Welcome to the ACC, my Orange friends.

Somewhere on Cape Cod, or his exact whereabouts this day, retired athletic director Jake Crouthamel has to be smiling and mourning.

Friday night, his college classmate at Dartmouth, and longtime professional colleague Dave Gavitt died in a Providence-area hospital after an illness at age 73.

Sunday, his successor, Daryl Gross and the rest of the respective parties involved, officially announced the culmination of the athletic department’s original intention under Crouthamel in 2004 that is before Virginia politics became involved, becoming a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The symbolism couldn’t be any more noticeable to longtime Orange fans with the passing of Gavitt, the Hall of Fame architect and first commissioner of the Big East as a basketball league in 1979 with Crouthamel by his side, and what’s essentially the end of the Big East as we know it, now left with only two original football members from 1991, and with current commissioner John Marinatto reactively forced to put the parts back together after deciding to wait until next year to put his TV rights on the market in open negotiations.

That is, if Marinatto can put the parts back together. He gambled that he’d get a better TV deal in November 2012 than the $11 million per team/per year payout current rights holder ESPN presented this past May (SU is looking at roughly a $13 million per year initial payout from the ACC’s current TV deal, which could be revisited with additional ACC expansion), and now, there’s too much instability.

The fluid situation of college realignment promises to be an almost every-day topic with universities truly hoping to be not left standing with no chairs to sit at the BCS table.

The current SU regime simply couldn’t wait any longer for the folks in Providence to ensure that the conference was stable and relevant enough among the BCS big boys to provide the comfort level needed for the many upgrades critically needed for Doug Marrone to continue the rebuilding project, and the administration certainly didn’t want to wait one year to see what the TV landscape would look like. The need for revenue into the athletic department coffers is now!

Gross has spent the past six years building the ‘Cuse athletic brand as “New York’s College Team” and he knew he could bring that “market” to the ACC table, and make no mistake, the ACC conference football championship game and the basketball tournament are going to be played in the New York City metro area one day, and likely at Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands and the soon-to-be completely renovated Madison Square Garden, respectively, by the end of the decade.

So, SU fans, the move “South” with Boston College already in place, and partnering with Pittsburgh softens the geography a little, throw in Maryland, and there’s at least three somewhat drivable future football /basketball road trips for locally-based fans.

And, of course we all know the benefits of having Duke and North Carolina come into the Dome for hoops.

Speaking of which, if Syracuse can (it seems likely) negotiate a shorter time frame to join the ACC from the current 27 months to just one year as a Big East lame duck joining the new conference for 2013-14, we predict that will coincide with the debut of the Mike Hopkins era, as Jim Boeheim will end his Hall of Fame career simultaneously with the Big East farewell in the spring of 2013.

Yet another bit of symbolism for longtime Orange fans.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.