Orange Watch: It’s Syracuse’s last week in the Big East

Syracuse legend Pearl Washington will be celebrated in style Saturday as the Orange and Hoyas renew acquaintances

Item: The clock is ticking down on a most prosperous era of Syracuse athletics. 

Next Monday, July 1, will mark the official start of ACC affiliation, about a decade overdue after the university’s previous regime of chancellor Buzz Shaw and AD Jake Crouthamel intended to follow the same path as Miami and Boston College leaving the Big East, only to be rebuffed by the political mechanisms of then Virginia Gov. Mark Warner who rigged the system to favor (insisted upon) Virginia Tech’s ACC invitation over Syracuse.

None-the-less, following an out-of-the-blue call from ACC commissioner John Swofford to Nancy Cantor coming several months after a fractured Big East vote defeated a new TV contract with ESPN in May 2011, here we are saying farewell to the folks in Providence this week and hello, Greensboro.

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Feb. 20, 1983 was a key date

To these eyes, other than actually fulfilling the goal of winning a national championship in 2003, the greatest moment in SU’s Big East basketball history came on Feb. 20, 1983, a Sunday afternoon halftime announcement during a nationally televised St. John’s-Notre Dame (non Big East) game, when Pearl Washington told NBC analyst Al McGuire that he was going to Syracuse.

Pearl’s arrival in the fall of ’83 set off a domino effect in recruiting going from regional to national, especially westward.  That subsequent shift brought in an enviable amount of talented players to Jim Boeheim’s program, and resulted in the consistency of a Final Four trip each decade forward, right up to this past season’s fifth trip in school history.

In the Orangemen’s conference football history, again to these eyes, the greatest moments can be summed up in games a couple of weeks apart late in the 1998 season.

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Not only had Donovan McNabb led the ‘Cuse to a stunning win over Michigan in the Big House, that Sept., but in Big East play in Nov. his final play TD pass to tight end Stephen Brominski improbably beat Virginia Tech in the Dome, and two weeks later he put on his signature performance in his career home finale as the face of Orange football in the Big East era by throwing for two scores, and running for three more (including a 51-yard dash) in a 66-13 demolition of Miami to earn the last major bowl game (Orange Bowl) appearance in program history.

Now we can’t wait for the ACC debut game against Clemson in the Dome Oct. 5 to begin a new chapter of Syracuse’s illustrious football tradition.

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About Brad Bierman 766 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.