Syracuse University Magazine

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SU head football coach Doug Marrone '91 looks forward to the Orange competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He spent several seasons in the ACC as a coach at Georgia Tech. 



ACC Bound

Hello, Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, Big East. In an era of major collegiate athletic conference realignments, Syracuse University secured its future in September, accepting an invitation to become a member of the ACC. "We are very excited to be joining the ACC. This is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse, and with its outstanding academic quality and athletic excellence, the ACC is a perfect fit for us," Chancellor Nancy Cantor said, announcing the decision. "Overall, for Syracuse, this opportunity provides long-term conference stability in what is an uncertain, evolving, and rapidly shifting national landscape."

That landscape has changed considerably in the nearly three decades since the Orange became a founding member of the Big East, which quickly gained national recognition on ESPN basketball broadcasts. It was also a hint of things to come in college athletics. Recognizing the popularity of college basketball and football, broadcast and cable television networks began offering lucrative contracts to conferences, and even individual universities. This summer, the ACC and ESPN agreed to a reported $1.86 billion, 12-year pact, giving the sports network exclusive rights to the conference's football and men's basketball games. The ACC has a policy of equal revenue sharing, which provides financial stability for its members and was one of the reasons SU signed on with the conference.

Along with the financial benefits of TV, conferences became proactive about expanding their memberships, adding teams to meet Bowl Championship Series (BCS) criteria in football and gain additional revenue-sharing opportunities, among other things. In 2003, SU was in the mix of ACC expansion talks, but saw Big East colleagues Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College join instead. In turn, the Big East brought in five new members, including basketball powerhouses Louisville and Cincinnati. Conference shuffling has continued in recent years, with the major conferences making notable moves. Along with SU, another longtime Big East member, the University of Pittsburgh, will join the ACC, boosting membership to 14. In accordance with Big East bylaws, both SU and Pitt aren't scheduled to begin official competition in the ACC for 27 months.

And while many in Orange Nation lament the loss of traditional rivalries and events, especially the annual Big East Men's Basketball Tournament in Madison Square Garden, the ACC offers plenty of attractions. Old football rivalries with the likes of BC and Miami will be renewed, and there are ready-to-go rivalries in lacrosse and basketball on Tobacco Road and elsewhere.

According to University officials, ACC membership will align SU academically with similar research institutions, provide quality competition and growth in all sports, and extend and enhance SU's reach into the Southeast, where there are Orange alumni and supporters and a growing admissions base. The University's strong presence in New York City will also add a new dimension to the conference. In fact, ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a teleconference with SU and Pitt officials that the ACC would be open to having the Garden in its tournament site rotation. And as for that basketball rivalry with Georgetown, rest assured, SU athletics director Daryl Gross has said the Hoyas won't disappear from the schedule. "Today is a day that we will remember for years to come," Gross said. "We are truly excited that academically and athletically we will be a member of the ACC, one of the nation's premier collegiate athletic conferences. As 'New York's College Team,' we plan to compete at the highest level across all of our sports and help to enhance this great conference." —Jay Cox