Syracuse’s future secure in latest conference shuffle

Syracuse center Baye Keita boxes out UConn's Tyler Olander for a rebound
Syracuse center Baye Keita boxes out UConn's Tyler Olander for a rebound

Thought conference realignment was done? Fool me once.

Think the latest move by Maryland to ditch the ACC for the Big Ten and Rutgers bolting the Big East to join the Terrapins is the last of it? Won’t fool me twice.

These dominoes are just beginning to fall.

Syracuse center Baye Keita boxes out UConn's Tyler Olander for a rebound
Is UConn next in realignment?

Let’s make something clear: Syracuse’s future position in the ACC is solidified. The ACC will be fine and could even become stronger depending on if, and how, it responds.

The Orange should continue to feel justified in its upcoming move (as should Rutgers), but Maryland’s decision seems like a complete and utter money grab.

» Related: With Maryland gone, karma haunts ACC

I don’t see many comparisons between the Orange’s departure and the Terrapins’ move. Both are founding members of the conferences they’re leaving. Both are giving up long-time, traditional rivals for new, relatively unfamiliar opponents.

Both are moving for money. But they’re doing it in different ways. Syracuse is departing a faltering (even more so now) conference for a stable future and a guaranteed Bowl Championship Series slot. Maryland is leaving that stable conference for more money in the Big Ten thanks to a larger television contract.

So, what happens next? Does it matter to Syracuse?

It might. It sounds quaint and outdated to talk about geography in the current state of college athletics, but it matters to the fans even if it doesn’t to the universities.

Without a team in the Washington, D.C., area, Syracuse fans will have to boost their travel budgets even more to visit conference opponents. D.C. is an easy-to-get-to destination and holds a solid base of Orange alumni, including yours truly.

» Related: Who should the ACC get to replace Maryland?

Another potential concern: The ACC might not consider Washington, D.C., as a potential basketball tournament site. The hosts already are selected through 2015; Atlanta gets 2012 and Greensboro, N.C. gets the following three. The conference held its showcase in D.C. in 2005, but it doesn’t have a compelling reason to return without the Maryland draw.

That’s why the coming days and weeks will be so interesting for Syracuse fans. If the ACC responds to Maryland’s departure by adding another team or two, it would benefit Syracuse the most if the conference solidified its hold in the Northeast.

I vote for UConn. The school and its athletics are a like-for-like replacement to Maryland. It has a solid basketball program and a young but somewhat respectable football program. A pipe dream, of course, would be the additions of Georgetown and St. John’s. It would give the ACC the D.C. market again, further solidify the New York market and return two great rivals for Syracuse.

That’s probably some wishful thinking, especially in this era of college athletics, when geography, loyalty, tradition and rational thinking (not to be confused with financial thinking) are thrown out the door.

» Should the ACC get Georgetown & St. John’s to join? Leave your thoughts below!

We fans of college sports are at the whims of the money- and power-grabbing college athletics directors, university administrators and conference commissioners. The average fan doesn’t matter to them as long as people still tune in for games and show up to fill the stadiums and arenas.

One inescapable fact: The decimation of the Big East is likely to continue.

Another fact: Isn’t it time to dispel the notion that academics matter to college sports? Shouldn’t we call a spade and spade and just start paying these athletes, if it’s all about the money?

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About Dan Brannigan 71 Articles
Dan is currently the editor of Common Ground magazine for Community Associations Institute (CAI) where he has won an Association Media & Publishing award for newswriting. Dan has also won a New England Press Association award while working for the The Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Dan is a 2005 Syracuse University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @djbranni.