The disintegration of the Big East was fast-tracked a year on Monday when it was officially announced that Syracuse would be leaving the conference after the 2012-2013 academic year.
For the diehard college basketball fans that grew up in the Northeast (ME!), losing Syracuse — and eventually Pitt — is disheartening and disappointing. Jim Boeheim is one of the Big East’s pillars. He, along with John Thompson Jr., Jim Calhoun and Lou Carnesecca, helped build the Big East into the nation’s best basketball conference.
Madison Square Garden in the second week of March for five days of Big East hoops was one of the highlights of my year. I can’t tell you how many of Big East tournament moments count among the most memorable of my childhood sports fandom. I grew up loving the Huskies and despising the Orange — and the Hoyas and the Panthers and the Johnnies — all while rooting for the Big East, as a conference, to have as much success on a national scale as possible.
Seeing what’s left of the Big East’s carcass is depressing, and I was only watching. You’d expect someone like Boeheim to feel the same way, right?:
“The Big East is not what it used to be,” said Boeheim, the Orange’s head basketball coach, following the U.S. club’s 80-69 exhibition victory over Brazil on Monday night. “I think the ACC is a tremendous league and it’s a tremendous opportunity for us. To stay in one time zone and play in a great conference — a great all-around conference, but, specifically, a great basketball conference — is a great thing.”
It hurts, but he’s right.
When the Big East was at its peak, the league was all about the hoops. They didn’t need to add the likes or SMU or USF or UCF or Houston to “bolster” football. It’s like watching a grandparent battling cancer pass away. Losing them is sad, but you knew it was coming and seeing their misery end is consoling:
“This was coming,” Boeheim said of the announcement of SU’s jump to the ACC. “We knew it was coming. But it’s good to get it done. We didn’t want to wait another two years. One year is doable. I’m glad things worked out the way they have. It is what it is. We’ll focus completely on the Big East this year, just like we did last year. We’ll try to play the best we can and we’ll let future take care of itself.”
You know, sometimes I really hate college football.