When Syracuse was introduced as a member of the ACC on July 1, 2012, the ACC strategically picked its location for its welcoming ceremony. Along with Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, the ACC rolled out its red carpet right in the heart of New York City: The Nasdaq Market in Times Square.
That sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the college basketball world that the ACC was staking its claim in the Big Apple.
Well, the conference sent an even stronger message on Friday morning when Pete Thamel of SI.com reported that the ACC is finalizing a deal that would bring its tournament up to the Barclay’s Center. According to the report, the stadium and the conference will link up for two years, starting in the 2017 season after the ACC finishes up in Greensboro, N.C. in 2015 and the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. in 2016.
“It’s been talked about,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said to The Juice Online in July. “The league will have to figure out what the best solution going forward for the tournament.”
The move will certainly benefit the Orange, who has come to view New York City as its second home. Throngs of SU fans attended the Orange’s win over St. John’s in December at Madison Square Garden.
It’s also the best solution for the ACC’s branding in the north.
ESPN 30 for 30 will air Requiem For The Big East on Sunday evening at 9 p.m., a look back at how the upstart conference gained national prominence in the 1980s. The lynchpin to that success was hosting the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
While the ACC won’t have access to the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena,’ the Barclay’s Center is certainly the next best thing. With the Brooklyn Nets, and starting in the 2015 season, the New York Islanders moving in to compete with the New York Knicks and Rangers, there is already plenty of banter surrounding the two stadiums.
That will increase with the ACC coming north. The Big East and ACC tournaments are also set for the same times, and it would make for great theater with the dueling conferences and tournaments. The Big East retains its rights with Madison Square Garden through 2026.
Still, that is a battle the ACC is likely to win. Ticket prices have dipped dramatically for the Big East Tournament (as much as 18 percent), which makes sense given the recent defections of Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame, all schools with huge presences in the New York City area.
The Big East has also struggled on the television front in its new home on Fox Sports 1. According to The New York Times, a Saturday night game between Creighton and Xavier on March 1 “drew only 180,000 viewers for a 0.1 rating.” Meanwhile, Syracuse’s home-and-home with Duke drew 4.75 millions viewers and 4.2 million, respectively.
“And that’s why the ACC probably came out the big winner in this by getting those brands. You can just tell by the TV ratings,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said to SNY.tv. “People were compelled by Syracuse-Duke, Syracuse-Virginia, those were some of the highest-rated games of the year. At least half of the highest-rated games of the year came out of the ACC this year. And this wasn’t the ACC’s strongest year. It’s got better coming.”
That was certainly ACC commissioner John Swofford’s vision when he pushed for the northeast schools to join his southern rooted conference.
“If you’re going to be the best basketball conference, you have to rotate through New York City,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said in July, which in hindsight is a prophetic statement. “It’s very fitting that we’re here today, and as (Swofford) mentioned, eventually, the ACC conference tournament will rotate through New York City.”
‘Eventually’ has arrived.