Item: With the school year over and summer conditioning sessions underway for many Syracuse athletes on campus after one of the most successful ‘Cuse sports calendars in university history, we take a positive, upbeat look at the best-case scenarios for the “Big Three” programs next season. If Dino Babers can coax a minimum of six wins out of his first SU football edition to earn the school’s first bowl bid since 2013, if Jim Boeheim can continue to close out his career in style with a multi-week NCAA run, and if John Desko can get the Orange back to the Final Four also first the first time since 2013, then start planning, here’s the logistics of how those postseason events play out.
For 2016, the ACC has 10 tier one and tier two bowl games, plus a couple of secondary choice bowls, so if Babers and the Orange qualify for an extra game in his initial season, there will be no shortage of options where the conference and its TV partners can send SU for its bowl game.
The ACC tie-in games (other than the College Football Playoff series) are being played the week post-Christmas, with three games kicking off play Dec. 26 involving a league team in St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg), Detroit (Quick Lane) and Shreveport, La (Independence).
The next day, Dec. 27, is the Military Bowl at Annapolis, followed on Dec. 28 by the New Era (New York) and the Russell Athletic (Orlando). The Belk Bowl (Charlotte) is Dec. 29 followed by the Sun Bowl (El Paso) and Orange Bowl (Miami Gardens) on the 30th.
The Jan. 2 Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) is also in play this season, but final matchups will be determined after the four CFP teams are selected.
After a trip to the national semifinals for the sixth time in school history, what do you do for an encore? Why repeat the feat, and eye a trip to suburban Phoenix the site of the 2017 Final Four, of course.
Easier said than done, with a core of four newcomers joining four returnees who contributed in the four game run to Houston this past season. The easiest NCAA path from a travel standpoint would the “New York State of Mind” tour, beginning play in the first/second rounds down the Thruway at Buffalo for the third time since 2010, followed by a trip to second home Madison Square Garden, the East Regional locale. Greensboro is the other eastern location for the opening rounds.
The other regional sites are Kansas City, Memphis, and San Jose as the NCAA continues to shy away from using domed stadiums as regional sites, sticking to large football stadiums strictly for the Final Four.
2017 will mark the eighth season since the Orange hoisted the championship trophy at Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium, the longest title drought in program history since the first of 11 titles in 1983. Gillette Stadium happens to be the site of the next two NCAA Final Four weekends, but after 2018 the event’s future locations remains a big question mark.
Since 2003 only three sites have hosted the event, Foxborough, Philadelphia and Baltimore, but Baltimore did not bid for the next two years citing concerns with scheduling conflicts with the MLB Orioles, and several first-time cities are interested as being future hosts, including Chicago, Indianapolis, Columbus and Denver.
So the big question is will the NCAA finally make the big move and bring the Final Four away from the Eastern Seaboard for the first time? It will be a calculated decision, after all championship weekend attendance has declined precipitously since a record 52,004 attended the Div. I title game in 2007, with an announced crowd of 26,749 on hand for Monday’s North Carolina win over Maryland at Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field.
If Syracuse makes the NCAA tournament next season and wins a first round game, the quarterfinals locations are relatively close Long Island (Hofstra) and Delaware.