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Big East Lacrosse... No Thanks.


Great conference... just not at lacrosse.
A Big East Lacrosse league has been on the docket of discussion for quite some time. Of course the major hindrance to the formation of the league for the gentlemen was Syracuse and their unwillingness to compromise their strength of schedule and the ability to play whatever team they want. But it seems the talks in creating the Big East lax league has turned from wishful thinking of most schools to reality as the whim of Syracuse has reversed. John Desko is now a proponent of a Big East Conference league of lacrosse.

The reason for forming the league for Syracuse is simple. After a year of missing the tournament Syracuse felt that they could have still made it by winning their games against more than likely inferior Big East opponents. This theory is backed up by Syracuse, even in one of their worst years ever, managed to beat #2 Georgetown and Rutgers. The theory is sound enough; if in the event Syracuse fails to earn the proper pedigree to send them to the field of 16, then they surely will get an automatic bid either way. While the idea of a Big East lacrosse conference is a sexy one, in reality for Syracuse it is anything but.

Syracuse will most likely play a 14 game regular season. The Orange usually pepper in the usual suspects of Princeton, Virginia, and Johns Hopkins. They also play Albany, Cornell, Hobart, and Colgate; Syracuse’s upstate New York rivals. Syracuse the last few years has also played Georgetown, Army, Loyola, and, in my opinion, now rival UMass. They have also played Rutgers home and away the last few years. Syracuse has played Binghamton the last two seasons, and this year they played Villanova to fill the 14th slot. So there is your traditional schedule and what happened to consist of their slate this season.

So what would it do to the Syracuse schedule to play the Big East? The conference would consist of Syracuse clearly, but it will also include Georgetown, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John’s, Providence, and Villanova. Therefore, six games are spoken for. Syracuse will of course continue to schedule Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and Virginia. That would bring the total to nine. Syracuse would also like to keep their upstate rivalries in tact as well, which would mean playing Albany, Colgate, Hobart, and Cornell. That is now 13 games. So that would mean that there would most likely only be one more spot to schedule a game, which I would imagine would be taken up by UMass. At least hopefully.

But, of course the unintended consequence is the watering down of Syracuse’s schedule. Syracuse will no longer play Army and Loyola, teams that have been ranked the last few years. Instead, Syracuse will be playing St. John’s, Providence or Villanova, teams that are not even remotely near Syracuse’s level of play. Currently Villanova and Providence are not even fully funded programs with the proper number of scholarships.

So really my argument boils down to the fact that if it is not really broke, why fix it? Syracuse already plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Syracuse just won its record tenth National Championship. Syracuse is an elite program that can stand a down year now and then of not making the tournament. I mean missing the tournament once between the years of 1983 and 2008 is not so bad right?

While it appears that Syracuse will be joining a yet to be formed Big East Lacrosse conference, I for one will not be looking forward to it. All the benefits could be achieved by just scheduling Notre Dame in place of Villanova or Binghamton. Boom, there is your rivalry game without the scheduling of Providence. Amazing. Syracuse can write its own ticket. Syracuse, like Johns Hopkins, can afford to be independent still. A program with the caliber of Syracuse should not be making knee jerk reactions for the exception of missing the tournament, rather than the rule. While this may be good for the sport, it will still not be good for Syracuse, even if down the line it means the BET in the Dome.

We finish our coverage of the 2008 Lacrosse National Championship tomorrow with the season wrap up, as we say goodbye to another lacrosse season.

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4 Responses to “Big East Lacrosse... No Thanks.”

  1. # Blogger Adam

    As a fellow Syracuse fan, I respectfully, and strongly, disagree. Yes, I am a diehard fan of the Orange. But I´m even a bigger fan of lacrosse. And anything that´s good for the sport is good for me. I´d actually be happy if a school like Denver or Ohio State beat Cuse in a title game, even though I hate the University of Ohio State with a passion. Why is that? Because it would be a victory for the sport of lacrosse.

    The rest of this post is copypasta from a post I made at Inside Lacrosse:

    Look at the past 16 years. FOUR TEAMS won titles over that period of time. The same four teams. Even with the new Big East, Cuse will be playing ALL of them in out of conference games. People come to Cuse to play those teams. Binghamton and Albany can go; we don’t need them.

    And with Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, and Rutgers, they’ll be attracting top recruits just because Syracuse is now a fixture on their schedule. Winning the NC every year isn’t that much fun. And besides, it’s more fun to meet a team you DON’T get to play in the NC game. As a Cuse fan, I was anxious as hell to play Duke. But when Hopkins won, I was kinda frustrated since we play Hopkins all the time. We need to mix it up a bit. I look forward to the day when we’ll see UCLA and Syracuse meeting up for a national title. And the Big East needs to form as a step towards doing that.

    Now, I’m not for getting rid of Hopkins. I proposed a Cuse schedule in a post above that kept Cuse’s five most important games (Hopkins, UVA, Princeton, Cornell, and UMass), and put Colgate, Hobart, Albany, and Binghamton on a rotating basis.

    This leaves some flexibility in scheduling.

    If you want to look at a team in a similar situation, look at USC Trojan Football. They play in the Pac-10, the only conference that plays a complete round robin every year (except the Big East), meaning USC has nine conference games, PLUS Notre Dame is a fixture on their schedule. That’s only 2 games they can schedule for free. Most of their games are cupcakes (hell, only Cal, Oregon, Arizona State, and to a lesser extent UCLA provide USC with any trouble).

    USC is the football juggernaut; we (Cuse) are the lax juggernaut. It’s the same thing. Hell, Syracuse’s schedule got TOUGHER, if anything. I’d gladly give up Albany or Binghamton for Notre Dame anyday. And some traditions need to be thrown away. Look at the past Rose Bowl. USC and Georgia were the two hottest teams in the country at that time, and many people would declare a game between those two to be a de facto national title game. But the overzealous Rose Bowl committee, who wanted to preserve Ye Olde Traditione, chose lowly Illinois instead. USC blew them away, and Georgia blew Hawaii away in the Sugar Bowl. See what tradition does?

    Some traditions must be kept, but if I had to choose between preserving tradition and doing what’s right for the sport, I choose the latter proudly. Seeing a different set of teams in the Final Four every year is more fun than just having the same draw of teams every year. An NC game featuring Ohio State and Villanova would be just as exciting as a classic like Cuse, Hopkins, UVA, or Princeton.  

  2. # Blogger Brian Harrison

    Adam,
    Excellent post and something to think about, but I do have issue with a couple of things. First, like I said in the article, and my overall point, is that the Big East Conference is good for lacrosse, but not good for Syracuse. As an alumnus and fan of Syracuse University first and foremost, that is what is paramount to me and the other alumni. If I was a graduate of any other Big East institution or someone else in the lacrosse world, then yes I would be a proponent of the conference, but I am not because it is not what is best for Syracuse.

    Second, you were not excited about a Syracuse/Hopkins match up? I thought you said you were a fan of lacrosse? This is essentially a dream final for any true lacrosse fan. Plus with the parallels between this year’s Syracuse team and the 1983 team, the back story could not have been more perfect.

    Next, you suggested putting Hobart on rotation. That is simply unacceptable for Syracuse to do. That is a major Upstate New York rivalry game dating back to the early years of the Simmons, Jr. stint at head coach. Desko, nor the Syracuse fan base, and even the Hobart fan base would not want to see that a rotation happen. Especially after the reversal of Hobart’s Board of Directors to go back to Division III, and the support Syracuse showed to help keep the program in Division I, there is no way Syracuse will not schedule them still.

    While you make good points, the reality is that the Big East conference would do little to no good for Syracuse.  

  3. # Blogger Adam

    Brian,

    It´s true, it´s not great for Syracuse. But that´s in the short term. Rutgers and Villanova at LEAST will be able to recruit better, knowing Cuse is on their schedule. This is something we need to give time. I think in the long run it´ll make teams a lot better.

    While a classic like Cuse and Hopkins is a great matchup, and while I love that rivalry, the fact is it´s not going to take lacrosse to places it already isn´t. I don´t want to get rid of the Hopkins matchup at ALL. Hell, it´s probably the first I´d protect after UVA.

    I guess we could make Hobart a protected game (I forgot about the whole D-3 D-1 thing; and we could keep Hobart SOLELY because of that, out of respect for their great tradition and program). I sort of thought if we protected too many of the rivalries we wouldn´t get to schedule the Dukes and the Hofstras and the Universities of Ohio State of this world (although, to be fair, when we meet those teams in the tourney it would be all the more fun).

    Like I said, we just need to give up a few things.  

  4. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Brian-
    I don't think much can be done to make the Syracuse legend better, except piling on wins against schools they have yet to play. College Lacrosse needs the Big East. Syracuse will just continue to dominate independent or not. They are to college lax what USC is to college football.
    The majority of lacrosse players don't need the scholarships that you speak of when you say fully funded. I don't see college bound laxers' families driving much less than an SUV... The equipment is too expensive for low income families to afford. This is not basketball or soccer when $ is needed.

    But, as this sport is getting bigger, it needs more conferences to promote more schools funding more programs. You come off as an elitist.
    Are you a yankees fan?
    Are you a Giants fan?
    Are you a Manchester United Fan?
    When you go to casinos, do you cheer for the House?
    Anonymously
    The Phantom Friar  

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