Carrier Dome will still host Syracuse basketball, but its court named after Jim Boeheim will undergo a mild makeover when Orange officially leave Big East for ACC next July 1st. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Over the last few hours, I am sure you have seen reactions; some of which could be best described as "restrained jubilation," to Syracuse's settlement with the Big East. For those of you scoring at home, or for those who were unable to notice today's big headline in college basketball, Syracuse will pay a $7.5 million exit fee to the conference they were a charter member of to depart the Big East and officially join the Atlantic Coast Conference effective July 1st.
For the Orange, who spent last season proving that the rumors of their impending exodus; coupled with the allegations against former assistant coach Bernie Fine, were no distraction based on their 34-3 record and advancement into the East regional finals, the move represents more than just a conference affiliation. In fact, the switch to the ACC is a win-win situation for both the conference and university for some of the following reasons:
Football: It's no secret that this was one of the main catalysts behind Syracuse jumping ship, as well as what Louisville coach Rick Pitino termed a "basketball decision (made) to strengthen the ACC." The Orange football program may have had a better shot at a BCS bowl game (playoff system or not) in a perennially wide-open Big East, but Doug Marrone's program can be more competitive in a stronger football conference in the years to come. In addition, the ACC gets a program that; although they may not be able to stay with the likes of Virginia Tech and Florida State at the moment, adds to the depth of their league, and should bring additional revenue to both parties with the prospect of playing in higher-level bowl games annually.
Recruiting: Jim Boeheim has proven over his illustrious 36-year career that he is among the best talent evaluators in the Northeast, but the Hall of Famer has not had many prospects from below the Mason-Dixon Line in his tenure. This can (and will) change with an ACC affiliation. Syracuse is already a national brand that every prospect knows regardless of geographics, as is the ACC. The Orange should have an easy time getting players out of the coveted Washington, D.C. area, as well as the greater Atlanta region too among others in an effort to expand their program to a legion of fans and players unaware of just how good the Orange's world-famous 2-3 zone defense is.
New York's College Team: The moniker that is heavily disputed around the Big Apple actually benefits the ACC more than it does Syracuse. While the Orange will be taking its talents to new territories, the conference builds a market share in an enemy locale that will instantly help close the gap in overall basketball strength between the ACC and Big East even before Pittsburgh is welcomed into the fold. Syracuse's new home has already seen how well Duke and North Carolina have drawn in their nonconference visits to New York, and with the Barclays Center also getting into the mix with the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the ACC has a chance to establish itself among the college hoops authorities of the Northeast.
Madison Square Garden: No team has made a neutral court into a second home venue as much as Syracuse has transformed the "World's Most Famous Arena." As early as an hour before tipoff, the Mecca of basketball becomes a small Carrier Dome, complete with "Let's go Orange" chants and the Syracuse tradition of standing and clapping until the first Orange basket is scored. The prospect of potentially playing teams such as North Carolina, Duke and Maryland at the Garden would be appealing to both Syracuse and the ACC if both sides are able to pull it off without too much of an objection from St. John's and the Big East, not to mention it would be a huge selling point to recruits unfamiliar with the magic of the Garden. The Orange will almost certainly continue to play nonconference events there, so the annual trip(s) to midtown Manhattan will not be sacrificed.
Homecourt Advantage: The sheer size of the Carrier Dome instantly ranks it with the Dean Smith Center, Cameron Indoor Stadium and Comcast Center among the ACC's most imposing home venues. With the exception of NCAA Tournament games, no school in the ACC has played in a 30,000-plus seat arena. Having to go to Syracuse for a regular season game tips the scales in the Orange's favor immensely, not to mention it boosts ACC attendance figures. Moreover, Syracuse alumni of the Mid-Atlantic will be able to see the Orange on the road more often just as graduates who still live in the Northeast do, creating a well-traveled fan base that will rival that of the long-standing top three schools in Syracuse's new conference. Hey, some of them may even camp out outside the Carrier Dome before games similar to Krzyzewskiville on the Duke campus in Durham.