A Deep Look At Syracuse Lacrosse & The ACC

Joel White Lacrosse Syracuse Maryland lax
Excited to see this match up EVERY year!

So Syracuse is definitely headed to the ACC, huh?  And Pittsburgh will be joining them?  Well, that’s interesting!  At first glance, this looks like a really cool move for the college lacrosse world, and for a number of reasons, it is exactly that.  But the move also has the potential to bring more negative results, and it’s only fair that we examine both sides of the coin.  Let’s start with the really good stuff, and move on from there.

I am extremely excited to see Cuse play Maryland, Virginia, Duke and UNC at least once every single year.  Simply put, they’ll be great games if nothing else.

That is a somewhat obvious positive aspect, but if the sport hopes to expand this will help in other ancillary ways.  These guaranteed top-flight games will most likely be televised each year by ESPNU, and instead of seeing a bunch of Mid-Atlantic teams every week, we will get more Cuse.  This will increase regional rivalries and pride, and Syracuse (and the other existing ACC schools) will all benefit from the improved Strength of Schedule.  Cuse only played Duke and Viriginia in the regular season last year, so getting all 4 in, plus an ACC playoff will be great.

Joel White Lacrosse Syracuse Maryland lax
Excited to see this match up EVERY year!

It also really helps the ACC when it comes to lacrosse.  For too long this 4-team conference seemed really out of place, and the fact is, the ACC needed to add a couple more teams to round it out, and some day qualify it for an AQ.  Having Cuse join up certainly doesn’t fix the problem overnight, as now the conference only has FIVE lax playing schools, but it’s a step in the right direction for ACC Lacrosse.  It would be great if Boston College, Pitt, or some other ACC schools would add lax, but that doesn’t seem to be on the menu for the foreseeable future.

And now we get to some of the problems that this move could bring along…

The ACC only has five teams now.  And by now I mean 2014 at the earliest.  The Big East rules state that a team must give 27 months notice to leave the conference.  So we won’t be seeing this for at least a little while, and definitely not for 2 full lacrosse seasons.  So even when it does happen, the ACC will still only have 5 teams, and that’s not nearly enough.  Maybe by adding Syracuse, other ACC schools will feel compelled to add programs, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

So while the ACC will benefit down the road, the Big East simply must be reeling.  They just lost their top lacrosse team, and one of the founding members of the conference.  Syracuse has been in the Big East for 32 years.  They are now down to only 6 teams in Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, Rutgers, Notre Dame and St. John’s.  And with Cuse leaving, all 6 of those teams will have weaker schedules.  Albeit not for the next two seasons, but down the road this will be true.

Notre Dame has to be at least a little happy as they are an independent for football, and will now be the undisputed top dog in Big East lacrosse.  And again, by now I mean in 2014.  Oh, and along with the 27 month waiting period, Cuse also has to pay the Big East about $5,000,000.  So there’s that.

The other problems with this move center around the sheer absurdity of Syracuse playing in a conference call the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Cuse is 200 miles from NYC, and it ain’t near the coast.  But if we can have 10 teams in the Big 12 and 12 teams in the Big Ten, I guess I don’t really have a problem with it.  However, that doesn’t mean none of these moves are a little troubling…

Syracuse has been a staple in the Big East for as long as the conference has existed.  And now they are making a move to the ACC because they claim it is a “better fit”, and because the conference will provide better “stability”.  Texas A&M made a similar claim recently.  But these reasons are such an obvious screen, it’s silly.  They are making moves for the money involved.  Because like Taylor Branch said, college sports are big business.  I just wish they’d be a little more honest about it is all.  “We’re leaving to join the ACC because it will benefit our institution financially”.  What’s so wrong with just saying that?

Yes, the super conferences worry me a little bit, but at the same time, I think I can see where they are headed.  And that might be good for college sports in general.

If the top teams continue to align themselves in conferences that only feature other top teams, eventually a single super conference could emerge.  Or even two or three SCs could emerge… but the point is that this group of schools would be head and shoulders above everyone else athletically.  And my best is that just like right now, they would focus their money on football and basketball.  And that could pave the way for College Athletes getting paid.  All they would have to do is break football and basketball off from the NCAA, and then they could keep ALL that money for themselves.  Some will say the NCAA would never let this happen, but my question is, how can they stop it?  The end answer turns out to be, they probably couldn’t.  It would be like trying to tell the MCLA not to exist.  Except in this version the MCLA, the players would get paid, and treated like the pro athletes they already are.

I know this is a big jump to take for some out there, and I’m more than happy to engage in conversation in the comments.

Overall, Cuse’s move to the ACC will be good for Cuse athletics, and good for Cuse lax.  The ACC will also benefit big time, especially in terms of exposure, even though they dominate in that regard now.  The Big East will suffer a bit, but maybe they’ll add some new members, and by the time Cuse actually leaves, Marquette will have joined, so in terms of pure numbers, it will be a wash.  The talent of the Big East will definitely drop a bit though, at least for a couple years.

On a grander scheme, this is just another move made for money, but it could lead to reform and evolution, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.  Only time will truly tell!


  1. Its all about TV ( bball, fball) money.  The schools are chasing TV money now more than ever due to the tanked economy.  The corporations that pay for advertising on TV need eyes to see their products.  Hopefully, Cuse keeps playing Hobart , Cornell and Army.  Gtown was always a good game. 

  2. From a personal point of view, I’m indifferent about this move. The clear losers in this move are all non-AQ teams. Syracuse could almost be penciled in as the AQ from the Big East. That spot will, by default, now (2014) belong to another team from the conference. If we assume that ‘Cuse and the ACC remain as strong as they are today, then ‘Cuse moves from an AQ to a at-large team like the rest of the ACC. That’s one fewer at-large spot for the rest of the lax world to claim.

    If the NCAA expands the tourney, this point is moot, but I’m not sure the growth at the D1 level justifies this just yet.

    edited to reflect smclax’s valid point that there hasn’t been a long-standing AQ in the Big East

    • At first that looks true but the reality is that Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Syracuse will almost always be in the tournament regardless. The only problem would arise if the Big East champion would not have otherwise gotten an at large. With Notre Dame recently emerging as a national contender and Georgetown always having a strong team I dont think this will happen any time soon. Also, remember that Syracuse has only been an AQ for one or two years (cant remember if the Big East had an AQ in 2010). Before that they were an At-large team and made the tournament almost every year. So I really dont see much changing in terms of tournament teams.

  3. Have any thoughts about Michigan joining the Big East been discussed?  Just imagine those two teams going head to head in two of the biggest stadiums in the country.  That will be a great way to boost the Big East and the game of lacrosse I believe.

    • Of course as soon as I wrote that I remembered that unfortunately college sports don’t circle around lacrosse and U of M would have to jump ship in football and basketball too.   I could at least dream of them being in the same lax conference