Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Syracuse Reacts to Conference Change

The recent change of conference came as a surprise for many Syracuse students and fans. To get an understanding of how fans were feeling after leaving the Big East, I interviewed some students and athletes and put it all together for an article over on Rush the Court.

Monday morning was like any other morning here at Syracuse. The sun rose, the birds chirped, and the professors lectured. But something was different. The Syracuse student body woke up to an e-mail that the university will be joining the ACC.

Only 72 hours earlier the idea of Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East had not even been leaked. Conference expansion had been a newsworthy topic of discussion, but this news seemingly came out of nowhere with the New York Times’ Pete Thamel breaking the story Friday night. The Big Ten had rumored interest in the Orange, but Texas A&M and West Virginia were the headliners in potential switcharoos, not us. We were happy in the Big East, for now at least. I guess we thought wrong.

Rivalries are at the heart of college sports. As much fun as it is for us to cheer on the Orange, it is just as fun to hate the Hoyas and Huskies. So naturally, Syracuse fans and students are questioning what will happen to these longstanding rivalries that have become an integral part of the student experience at Syracuse. “It’s a big move that’s been coming and I’m excited for the future,” Matt Shadle, a Syracuse sophomore said. “Hopefully we can retain the rivalries through out-of-conferences games. If not, new rivalries will have to be formed.”

Although Syracuse will no longer have conference games against familiar foes like UConn, Georgetown, and Villanova, Orange fans are excited about hosting Duke and North Carolina in the Carrier Dome. Ben Glidden, a junior at Syracuse, said, “I think it’s a smart move for Syracuse … it adds a lot of excitement to basketball playing with the likes of Duke and UNC.” Students that I spoke to all mirrored that opinion and look forward to clashing with the two storied programs from Tobacco Road.

Phillip Thomas, the starting safety on the Syracuse football team also seemed optimistic about the move, citing an increase in competition by stating, “It’s great for our program to be able to face UNC, Virginia Tech, Miami, FSU, and others.” Thomas added that he “couldn’t be happier.”

However, not all are pleased about the upcoming changes. Tyler Greenawalt, a Syracuse sophomore, said, “My natural inclination was to not like the move. It really destroys the big rivalries of Georgetown, Villanova, and UConn, which we all really enjoyed watching whether it be in basketball or football.”

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim also publicly criticized the change in conference while speaking at the Monday Morning Quarterback Club. He said “We’re going to end up with mega conferences and 10 years from now either I’m going to be dead wrong — and I’ll be the first to admit it — or everybody is going to be like, why did we do this again? Why is Alabama playing Texas A&M this week and going to Texas Tech next weekend? And why is Syracuse going to Miami in basketball this week and next week they’re going to play Florida State?” Boeheim also acknowledged the motives for the move by saying, “This audience knows why we are doing this. There’s two reasons: Money and football.”

However, when it came down to it, something needed to happen. Syracuse needed to look out for itself. The Big East is teetering and the ACC will provide us with top competition and television coverage, despite the added travel. Syracuse junior Iain McWhirter said it best, “I love the Big East, but this was a eat-or-be-eaten type of situation. I am happy we jumped ship first as opposed to waiting until WVU, UConn, and other schools have already peaced.”

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