It is July, however, and the preseason period will not open in earnest for another week or so. As such, some random musings are in order.
What follows should not be construed as anything other than conjecture. Known states of affairs have been connected to create what can only be termed as "unreasonable reasoning." Its grounding in reality, therefore, is obviously open to debate. -M.G.
It is not surprising to see that the Big Ten Conference's announcement that expansion is back on the league's agenda has captured the intrigue of the college football community. Syracuse, according to the Des Moines Register, is an apparent target for membership. Many individuals and media outlets have weighed in on Syracuse's candidacy. The sentiments have ranged from surprise to knee-jerk acceptance.
The most interesting aspect, though, is that Syracuse appears to have anticipated such a candidacy. At best, the institution has put such circumstances in motion.
Pertinently, Jim Delaney -- the Big Ten Conference's current Commissioner -- would not announce such an endeavor had he not already engaged in some sort of investigatory experiment. In order to adequately gauge which direction expansion would take place, conversations must have occurred, both within and without of the conference. To do otherwise would lead to some degree of chaos if proper preparation and due diligence did not occur.
Such an assumption is grounded in Penn State's migration to the Big Ten Conference. While set in secrecy, the expansion did not occur on a whim. Penn State knew it was a target and prepared accordingly.
This is where Syracuse comes in. Ever since the Orange failed to move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, much speculation has taken place as to the viability of the Big East Conference. To assume that Syracuse has not explored options to secure its athletic future is to ignore the fact that the Big East Conference is, at best, a loose affiliation of universities attempting to sustain order through an otherwise tenuously beneficial relationship.
To wit, Jake Crouthamel and the Syracuse administration dragged its feet through the Atlantic Coast Conference membership evaluation process, yet was still prepared to accept an offer if extended. The only reason the migration did not occur was because of the Virginia legislature's strong-arming of Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford.
Moreover, Syracuse's abstention from the lawsuit against the Big East Conference defectors supports the notion that the university maintained the foresight to recognize that if in the future Syracuse would receive another membership offer, it would not erode or tarnish the goodwill it has created with its Big East Conference affiliates.
This prior history strongly indicates that Syracuse is far from opposed to changing its league affiliation. In contrast, it shows that Syracuse has been open to assessing its options should an opportunity arise.
The opportunity, apparently, has arise. The only thing that is up to debate is when the opportunity first arose. Given Syracuse's actions over the last two years, the possibility likely arose long before Jim Delaney gave his interview to the Des Moines Register.
The facts are almost oppressive:
- The Big Ten Conference is looking to target the New York City market. For at least the last two years Syracuse has put out a marketing blitz in The City. From establishing a radio affiliate, to hanging billboard and taxi signs, to an affiliation with SNY, Syracuse's "Orange in the Apple" campaign appears eerily consistent with the Big Ten's desire.
- The Big Ten Conference is built on regional support of its collegiate members. When you have large state institutions, large regional partisans are bound to follow. Syracuse -- one of upstate New York's many private universities -- has attempted to extend its reach through an effort to label the Orange as New York's "team." From stickers on helmets to banners in the Carrier Dome, the Syracuse Department of Athletics is trying to develop a state school feel in a private environment.
- The Big Ten Conference is all about tradition and an old-school Saturday afternoon feel. Syracuse's branding effort over the last few seasons has brought back the throwback look. From uniforms to a new/old "Block S" logo, Syracuse's branding is in-line with that of the Big Ten Conference (even if met with mixed reviews).
- Then there is the scheduling. While put in motion well before Dr. Daryl Gross took the reigns, it has shown that Syracuse has and will compete in the Big Ten Conference. In just the last two seasons Syracuse has faced Illinois and Iowa. In the near future, Syracuse will square off against Northwestern, Penn State, and the aforementioned last two clubs.
- Finally, there are Syracuse's facilities upgrades. The Carrier Dome has received extensive upgrades and cosmetic facelifts. At the Lampe Athletic Complex, Syracuse has pretty much overhauled the entire site, constructing a new, state-of-the-art weight room, installed new practice fields, and brought the entire complex up to contemporary standards. Such developments are not just to lure recruits; it is to lure potential conference suitors.
If this is actually the case, then one would assume that Syracuse is a serious candidate if not a primary candidate. That fact puts Syracuse in a position of leverage not seen since the great league debacle of 2003.
“If you are out of trouble, watch for danger”
Mike Tranghese -- Commissioner of the Big East Conference -- was on top of the world just two weeks ago. Captaining a league that had survived what was then perceived as a fatal attack, Tranghese spoke with steely confidence about the Big East's terrific 2006 gridiron campaign and the expectations and anticipations surrounding the conference's 2007 effort.
And now, Tranghese is once again forced to try and find success in circumstances that are bound to resolve in only misery. The difference between these circumstances and those that transpired in 2003, however, is that the Big East will, in all but one circumstance, not survive.
The story is fairly straightforward: Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney wants to expand the Big Ten in order to buoy the conference's television network. The targets? At this point, some combination of Notre Dame, Rutgers, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Missouri, and pretty much every other school not residing in the southeast or on the west coast.
Before assessing Syracuse's particular position in this realignment, the ramifications of the realignment must first be understood. This is necessary as Syracuse -- much like its conference mates -- will not maintain the status quo should the Orange not receive an invitation to the Midwest's premier collegiate athletic conference.
Scenario I: Big Ten Invites Notre Dame
Facts: The Big Ten offers Notre Dame a seat at the league table. Notre Dame, surprisingly, accepts the offer. No other conference realignments occur.
Analysis: Quite simply, this is Mike Tranghese's dream scenario. The Big East stays in tact while Notre Dame -- long a leech on the Big East's being -- is finally jettisoned from the league. In essence, everybody wins; the Big Ten gets its "big fish" and the Big East maintains the status quo of resurgence.
Syracuse Impact: Most importantly, however, Syracuse University is not materially affected. It is still a member of a viable athletic conference with members that maintain above-average to elite athletic programs.
Scenario II: Big East Member Bolts to the Big Ten
Facts: The Big Ten extends a membership offer to either Syracuse, Rutgers, or Pittsburgh (these are the only three Big East institutions that satisfy the conference's academic requirements). One of the aforementioned institutions accepts the offer.
The Big East is left with only seven football playing members. Mike Tranghese, once again, is left to plug the holes on the Big East's sinking ship.
Analysis: There is a reason that direct hits are, more likely than not, fatal.
The Big East survived this scenario in 2003 when John Swofford and the Atlantic Coast Conference snatched Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College from the Big East. At that time, however, a secondary option was available that, while sour, was not unacceptable. That option was Conference USA, a league built to be the Big East of the Midwest but never found its momentum.
This time, contrastingly, an acceptable secondary option does not exist. Navy, Central Florida, East Carolina, and arguably every other institution east of the Mississippi River do not match (either academically or athletically) the institutional models of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, or Rutgers. These are classic eastern universities that cannot be replicated through replacement.
In essence, the Big East would be trading a ten dollar bill for a five. The only consequence is a watered-down version of the original.
Syracuse Impact: If Syracuse is not the institution that receives and accepts the offer, an unmitigated fatal blow. The Big East cannot survive without Pittsburgh or Syracuse. These are the only two institutions that maintain a national reputation on the football field and on the hardwood. Without one, the conference losses almost all of its cache and marketability.
More importantly, however, is that the Big East is bound to take on another member that does not rise to the level of Syracuse's academic and athletic missions. Syracuse is not Harvard (nor should it be), but it clearly is not East Carolina or Central Florida. These are not academic or athletic peers; rather, these institutions are merely friends of necessity.
That is not a recipe for success.
With the Big East hobbling atop a single leg, the upward climb Syracuse would have to make in order to restore credibility is almost impossible. Even in terrific campaigns, Brigham Young has had to plead and whine for national attention. Texas Christian may fall under the same circumstances this season. Should Syracuse remain in a Big East devoid of Pittsburgh or Rutgers, it would be in the same situation as the aforementioned Mountain West Conference members.
The Orange may as well cut its losses (both literally and figuratively) and move to Division I-AA. In that effort, Jim Boeheim can keep his placement in the Big East while football program costs are recategorized from "pointless hemorrhaging" to "respectable under the circumstances."
Scenario III: Non-Big East Member Bolts to the Big Ten
Facts: The Big Ten offers membership to a non-Big East member institution (the leaders at this juncture appear to be Big XII members Nebraska, Missouri, or Iowa State). The institution accepts the offer and becomes the Big Ten's twelfth member.
As a result of the move, the Big XII looks to fill-out its membership. Arkansas, a former member of the Southwest Conference and rumored to be dissatisfied with its membership in the Southeastern Conference, receives a membership offer from the Big XII. Arkansas accepts the invitation in order to renew its rivalries with Texas institutions.
Now short one member, the Southeastern Conference scours every school south of the Mason-Dixon line for a member. Louisville and West Virginia are targeted and one of the institutions receives an offer and accepts. The Big East is now down to seven football playing institutions.
Analysis: See, Scenario II: Big East Member Bolts to the Big Ten.
The Case for Syracuse
Editors Note: Honestly, Syracuse should not be the Big Ten's first option. Brian Cook has labeled Syracuse as a "Plan B" and I do not disagree. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Missouri are clearly better options due to their geographic location. However, what follows is merely the case for the Orange due to the above analyses.
As noted, Syracuse needs to both generate and accept a membership offer from the Big Ten. To do so puts over a century of athletic development in serious jeopardy.
- Despite its recent woes on the gridiron, Syracuse is still the 14th winningest program in college football history. All programs go through periods of downturn; the programs with a rich tradition of success almost always rebound to recapture past glory. Syracuse -- until proven otherwise -- is bound to find its way to success once again. No other school associated with the Big Ten's expansion plans (with the exception of Nebraska) matches Syracuse's record.
- Syracuse maintains arguably one of the most recognized college basketball brands in the country. Jim Boeheim's presence on the sideline should not change a century of excellence on the hardwood (through 2004, Syracuse is the sixth winningest program in college basketball history).
- Syracuse is an academic peer to Big Ten member institutions. As a member of the Association of American Universities, it maintains a status amongst the nation's premier research institutions.
- Syracuse maintains, unsurprisingly, an incredible national media presence. With so many S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications graduates populating mainstream media outlets, the Orange has kept its national television presence despite fielding underachieving football squads the last two seasons. This should undoubtedly contribute to the Big Ten's media exposure.
- No institution is going to dominate the New York City market, but if any is going to, it could be Syracuse. The Orange already has an arrangement with New York's ESPN Radio affiliate and SNY (New York's newest all sports television network) religiously broadcasts Syracuse's sports magazine programs, basketball contests, lacrosse games, and regionally-produced football games. Throw in a sizeable alumni base in the greater metropolitan area and you have as strong a presence in New York City area as any other major university.
- Syracuse's location is fairly accessible to the Midwest. It may have an east coast feel, but it is not an outpost like Boston College is to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
- Syracuse has a fairly long tradition with the Big Ten. In the last decade or so, Syracuse has squared off against almost every institution currently within the conference. Throw in a long standing rivalry with Penn State and Syracuse has maintained an extended athletic relationship with the conference as a whole.
- As a relatively small and selective private university, Syracuse only has one potential peer in the Big Ten: Northwestern. Given the Wildcats' success in the conference, serious doubt surrounds how Syracuse can compete with large land grant universities.
- Syracuse maintains a relatively small athletic program. Hockey is on the horizon, but until the Orange takes to the ice, the university is only fielding 19 varsity sports (with swimming and diving coming off the ledger next year). This is not totally congruent with the Big Ten's eleven members.
- Accessible from the Midwest, but a difficult trip nonetheless.
- Have you seen the football team lately?
It seems that Bucs fans can enjoy a cocktail next season. Tampabay.com is reporting that the city has preliminarily agreed to let the stadium purchase booze to sell during games. Someone tell DR. Gross to get on this. I think we all know Buzz Shaw would highly approve of this occurring in the Carrier Dome. Sadly, it will probably be expensive as sin. Just imagine how good you would feel, even after a loss to Rutgers!
Yes, I started covering this beat last year because the team was so darn good. So it is my duty to report that Head Coach Lisa Miller has chose to depart Syracuse and head for the glory that is Cambridge, Massachusetts, and coach Haaaaaaaaaavahd (Harvard for those not in New England). Lisa Miller’s career numbers at Syracuse were 106-53 (.667) in ten seasons, all of which were winning. She led Syracuse to the inaugural Big East Conference Championship, along with an automatic NCAA Tournament birth this past season and was named D-1 Coach of the Year and currently ranks 10th among active coaches in win percentage. Nothing to say but thanks for helping build a competing program and best of luck at the Crimson Tide.
USA Today had a major story on the Ernie Davis movie earlier this week. You can read the article here, but to sum up; this article suggests Ernie Davis is college football’s version of Jackie Robinson. I could not agree more. I am getting very excited for this movie. He is my hometown hero.
The Hot Seat
Thanks to our own Matt Glaude reporting at the Fanhouse, as well as our pal at Nunes/Magician, we learn just where Greg Robinson is on the “Can the Coach Barometer”. I agree with Matt, he should have a little more time to get the gentlemen he has recruited in the system. Plus we have seen improvement every year, so if we see even more Greg will be around a few more seasons (nowhere to go but up when improving on a one win season).
Big East Media (are idiots!)
The media have spoken and this is how they think the league will turn out:
1. West Virginia (20)
You have got to be kidding me. As I mentioned in my Big East Football Prospectus I think we can handily dispatch of at least three of these teams. Granted several of these squads *cough* UConn/Rutgers *cough* play an almost embarrassing non-conference schedule filled with cupcakes and 1-AA teams (I’ve visited Norfolk State and have seen them play but honestly Big East people), but that does not affect how you finish in the league. How can these people really think on paper we look like the worst team competing. This really grinds my gears.
Basketball Conference Schedule
The conference put out its schedule for who is playing who and where in the Big East this coming season. Although it is an awesome matrix to look at, it upsets me in several ways. First, I can’t support a schedule, no matter how random, balanced, or fair, that does not include a home and home series with your biggest rival. Syracuse only plays UConn in the Carrier Dome this season, instead of both the Dome and either Gample Pavilion or the Hartford Civic Center. However, there are some cool games on the schedule, as we play home and home with Villanova, Georgetown, and USF (?). We then see Marquette, Pittsburgh, and Providence as the really quality home games next season. We will travel to Morgantown, South Bend, Cincinnati, Chicago, Newark, and L’Ville. This should be an interesting season, however I wish the conference would adopt my scheduling plan. You simply pick your three biggest rivals for a home and home. For Syracuse, I believe this would be Connecticut, Georgetown, and Pittsburgh. Then you schedule every other opponent in the league at least once, splitting them between home and the road and rotating every season. Obviously there might be some overlap of who wants to play who home and home, so some concessions would have to be made and the league office would have to handle that. But, all in all I think this would be a much cooler way to enjoy the Big East. The TV deal has a little to do with it, but frankly, even if we did not play a home and home with UConn, but did play everyone in the league at least once, that would be a much better compromise. Every team should play every other team at least once. The SU Athletics page has the complete rundown of the conference schedule and how we have done against all the other Big East teams here (Correction: We played Providence at Providence last year, unlike what that page says).
(Usual) BCS Complaint
Rumor has it that in 2011 or 2012 college football will institute a “Plus 1” format for determining the BCS Champion. While this is less a playoff and more of a final four, I still kind of like it. And some improvement is better than nothing. Look for this to appear… in the distant future. In the meanwhile I’m sure we will still complain and gripe about how an undefeated Boise State can’t/shouldn’t/should play for the National Championship. Happy blogging!
Save the Swim Team!
I’ll be honest; I did not know anyone on the swim team when I was there from 2001-2005. However, one of my good law school friends is an ’06 alumnus of Syracuse and was on the swim team for all four years of his college career. Once he explained to me that Syracuse had representation in the NCAA National Championships every season I was outraged that DOCTOR (hat tip to Nunes/Magician with the all caps) Darryl Gross was cutting the teams in favor of Women’s Ice Hockey (gaaaaaaag me). I’m generally against cutting any teams as I believe Title IX is outdated and harmful (another topic for another day but I have done extensive research on the subject), but a national championship caliber team? Really? Come on DOCTOR. Anyway, here is the online petition. So sack up and help save a great program and a great bunch of kids from getting a totally raw deal. (To quickly sum up the way to fix Title IX is to just make football exempt).
Do you feel more informed? No? Sorry. Maybe you should read about questionable meat and hunker down until August 31st. I am very ready for some college football to start. As always, stay tuned for more.
Well, the Stars and Stripes does, and right now our charges are storming through Japan, exporting a purely American brand of pain to five other countries.
Germany lost this game 33-7.
I scored two touchdowns on 187 yards rushing.
Superficially, this fact only tangentially pertains to Syracuse University. As a proud American football playing institution, the Orange must vicariously take a hint of pride in the U.S.'s utter domination of its competition.
Syracuse, however, has much closer relationship to the 2007 World Championship of American Football. For you see, Chris Thorner, late of an abysmal 15 tackle season, is on the squad.
Yup, Chris Thorner is an athlete performing on the international stage. In a related story, Hell is expecting to top both Buffalo and Syracuse in the Golden Snowball contest this year.
Soon to be Matt Glaude.
Labels: Breaking The Law
This has nothing to do with the Orange, but I thought that many readers would at least find this interesting.
As of yesterday, July 1, 2007, my roommate and I have embarked on a quest to consume hot dogs every day throughout the month of July. We have decided to chronicle this quest of gastric disdain on the Internet. You can follow the day-to-day action over on our blog, Matt and Matt Eat Hot Dogs.
Just like Syracuse football, I am sure that our endeavor will result in nothing short of pain and the ominous feeling of nausea.