Pitt and Syracuse are ACC-bound ... but are they rivals? (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Let's face it - Pitt and Syracuse are essentially joined at the hip. Both are headed to the ACC now, so with that in mind, I reached out to Sean over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, SB Nation's incredible Syracuse blog, to answer a few questions. I asked him about a manufactured rivalry between the schools, facing stiffer competition in football, missing Big East basketball, and more.
I'm fascinated by the Pitt-Syracuse football rivalry, or lack thereof. We've played each other every year since 1955 and you're the 2nd-most common opponent in the history of SU football and yet...it barely registers. I don't quite know what to make of it. I think we both get more fired up on the basketball court than we do for football and there's way more history on the gridiron. Perhaps its a lack of memorable moments or a lack of bad blood. With West Virginia, we can point to specific moments and say we hate them and they hate us but I can't really do that with Pitt.
I think we're linked and we'll be rivals more than, say, Syracuse will be with Clemson or Georgia Tech. But I think we'll view Boston College as more of a rival than you guys and you'll be in the 2nd tier along with Maryland and Virginia Tech.
What this rivalry needs, like any rivalry, is emotion. There needs to be some kind of screwjob that costs one of us some kind of major stakes. There needs to be a shocking victory on a dubious call. There needs to be a fight or players jawing at one another or an intense recruiting war. We just need more of that stuff and if that starts to happen, we can get a rivalry going.
I'm extremely pleased with the way Syracuse handled themselves this entire time. It was very business-like, at least publicly. We made a business decision and we never seemed to waver from that mentality, even as the Big East got all pissy and took their toys home with them. I'm really impressed with our AD, DOCTOR Daryl Gross, who has not only turned Syracuse Athletics into a well-rounded sports program, but made a fantastic move getting us into the ACC without turning it into a story about himself (coughcoughOliverLuckcoughcough).By the way, my guess is that we probably toyed around with the suing thing behind closed doors, but just never pulled the trigger.
Yeah I was surprised that they were able to come to the table like that considering the lawsuit. And then that Pitt got the same deal even though they had been much more disruptive. I'm not complaining, I mean, could you imagine the nightmare of Syracuse leaving a year early but Pitt not? It would have been a disaster for scheduling and other things. I'm glad cooler heads prevailed in the end once all the emotions died down (and Marinatto was no longer involved).
5. What are your thoughts on leaving Big East basketball behind?
I'm not too happy about it the closer we get. Football, I'm fine with. We don't really lose that many rivalries and we're going into a situation where we'll be surrounded by quite a few teams we have history with (Pitt, BC, Virginia Tech, Miami, Maryland). But for basketball, it's going to take a lot of getting used to. I won't miss DePaul but I feel like we're losing something by not playing UConn or Georgetown or Villanova every year. I know we've talked about doing some non-con games against one another but it won't be that many. And to trade in those traditional and geographic rivals for home-and-homes with Virginia and Florida State...well..it's gonna take some getting used to. Unfortunately, it's the cost of doing business.
6. Being in a conference that's more relevant is great, but do you have concerns about the Orange being able to compete in football like I do about Pitt?
It's funny, I've been watching everyone take a switch to ACC football and how bad it is all summer and, while I get it from a national perspective, I'm shaking in my boots as a Syracuse fan. We have to play Florida State and Clemson every year? And probably either Miami or Virginia Tech every year?And then throw in solid programs like Pitt, NC State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina? I mean...We're freaking out cause we have a really tough non-conference schedule this season but its not gonna get any easier next year. I'm glad our recruiting efforts are improving because we're about to take a giant step up and it's going to take some serious building in order to get competitive, even if that means going 6-6. It's possible but it's daunting.
Obviously, Georgetown. I'd love to see Syracuse and Georgetown schedule a game for February every season. It would preserve some of that old charm and keep going one of the most heated rivalries in the nation. We usually only play each other once a year anyway these days so it's not changing too much. I just hope we would keep playing it in our home gyms and not at, say, MSG. That's part of the appeal.
As for UConn, I have a feeling they'll be conference-mates sooner or later so we can wait on them...