On Sunday, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they are leaving the Big East and joining the ACC. The move is the latest in the march toward the era of the superconference in college athletics. Here’s how it breaks down:
PRESERVATION: This has to be the main motivation for Syracuse and Pitt leaving. The reality is the Big East couldn’t guarantee stability over the long haul. The ACC and SEC have proved to be proactive, looking at multiple options and securing their futures. The Big East on the other hand has basically stood still, failing to add teams to preserve its own future. Look no further than the debacle of Villanova joining the Big East in football to see the fractures among the Big East schools. Without a united front, the Big East squandered away several opportunities to secure its future. Now, Big East commissioner John Marinatto is left to scramble to save the conference. The ACC, on the other hand, is here to stay – that is unquestioned. And that is why Syracuse is leaving.
MONEY: Obviously, this is the main driving factor behind college athletics. The ACC becomes the first 14-team football conference, and will need to add only two more teams to make it to the magic number of 16. With Syracuse and Pittsburgh aboard, the ACC has a stake in most of the major markets along the eastern seaboard, and will have the television contract to back it up. The ACC’s contract with ESPN works out to about $155 million a year compared to the Big East’s $111 million. And with this expansion, the ACC can demand more.
LOYALTY: Well, this is a misnomer. It’s really the lack there of. Yes, Syracuse is one of the founding members of the Big East. And, yes, Pittsburgh joined the league three years after its inception. But it’s clear that with the musical chairs that has happened with college sports in the last few years, that loyalty means nothing. At this point, it is every school for itself. It is sad that the key rivalries of Syracuse’s past such as West Virginia in football and Connecticut and Georgetown in basketball won’t exist anymore. But that is what non-conference play is all about. And, besides, Syracuse playing North Carolina and Duke has some juice to it, too.
THE END OF THE BIG EAST?: It’s hard to say what will happen to the Big East. There is a chance that, like in 2004, the Big East will continue to survive. Much of it will depend on what happens to the Big 12. In the past year, Kansas, Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State have all been linked to the Big East. If the Big 12 collapses like what has been anticipated, there will be plenty of schools for the Big East to choose from. But waiting to see what happens is exactly what doomed the Big East in the first place. If the Big East wants to survive, it needs to be proactive and move quickly to replace SU and Pitt.