Monday Morning Point Guard
The tectonic plates of the NCAA landscape have shifted quite significantly over the last couple of years. The Pac 10 is now the Pac 12. The Big 12 has less than 12 teams and the Big Ten has more than ten. The Big East is soon to be the Smaller East, until it then attracts more teams, and goes back to the Big East.
Why has this perplexing phenomenon occurred, and why must all these universities continue to jump from one conference to another, turning their backs on storied rivalries and joining conferences that make no sense from a geographical point of view? (Boise State, for instance, is being courted by the Big East, which is laughable if you look at a map of the United States. I'm no geographer. But last time I checked Idaho borders Oregon, which is a state on the West Coast of the United States.) There are many reasons for the widespread shifting of teams across the country, but the short answer is easy: money and football.
The bottom line is that these universities are changing conferences to cash in on big money television contracts associated with college football. I can't completely fault university administrators for putting their colleges in positions to create more revenue, but legendary basketball rivalries are being sacrificed in the process.
Let's put Syracuse University under the microscope, because they are a prime example of school that is about to wave good-bye to various hoops rivalries. Earlier this year it was announced that Syracuse, one of the founding members of the Big East, will be leaving next year to join the ACC. And as a Syracuse alum who bleeds orange, when I first heard this news, I was flabbergasted. Syracuse IS the Big East. Madison Square Garden, where the Big East Championship takes place, is a home away from home for the Orange. Why in the world are they changing conferences severing multiple heated rivalries. What about Syracuse vs. Georgetown? Remember the days of Derrick Coleman and Patrick Ewing? What about Syracuse vs. UConn? That brings back memories of that epic 6-overtime thriller. Syracuse vs. Villanova was even developing into a solid rivalry of two perennial top 25 teams. Now all of these classic conflicts are being cast aside because of the almighty dollar.
Do you know what really grinds my gears about Syracuse bolting to the ACC? They aren't even good at football. The last time Cuse was good at football, Donovan McNabb was their quarterback. He's been washed up in the NFL for a couple years now, so what does that say about their current football team? Syracuse football has had hundreds (slight exaggeration) of football coaches in the last 36 years. Syracuse basketball has had one coach in the last 36 years, Jim Boehiem. The Carrier Dome is always sold out for basketball and never sold out for football. Ask any Syracuse graduate, and they will tell you we are a basketball school, unless they graduated in the 1950's, when Jim Brown was roaming the backfield for the Cuse.
So why switch from arguably the best basketball conference to a mediocre football conference when you have an established basketball program and a struggling football team? Because of the money associated with football. That can be the only answer.
Syracuse exiting the Big East isn't the only example of a team switching conferences and in effect ruining basketball rivalries. If Missouri does indeed switch to the SEC, Missouri vs. Kansas, a heated game between bordering states, will be lost. The Mizzou-KU border war is a contest that packs Allen Field House every year and has the whole campus buzzing on game day. Kansas, like Syracuse, is known for its basketball. Why should their program lose a quality rivalry because of a football-related realignment? UConn vs. Pitt, another Big East clash of titans, is soon to evaporate because Pitt is also defecting to the ACC. Because they are conference opponents, the fans are guaranteed to watch these schools battle at least once a year, if not multiple games. Now that Pitt has switched the script, they may or may not square off in the future. And it would only be a non-conference game, losing some of the luster on the significance of the match-up.
As the perpetual conference carousel continues, the list of hoops rivalries gone awry is only going to grow.
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