I was recently contacted by John Cassillo, a blogger over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. Syracuse isn't joining the ACC for another couple of years, but John wanted to get an early jump and things and learn a little bit more about Clemson and the ACC.
John talks about why he's glad Syracuse is leaving the Big East for the ACC, and also gives his reasons for Syracuse's recent struggles on the gridiron, as well as his thoughts on the Orange's most recent basketball campaign.
Syracuse will play in the Atlantic division, so once they're in the ACC, we'll play them every year.
Also, be sure to check out my answers to his questions.
I guess the first question can apply to you as well. Thoughts on conference realignment? I went from being very concerned last fall, to being completely okay with the way things turned out. Yeah, it's unfortunate to see historic rivalries disappear, but you do what you can to maintain the intensity in non-conference play (for us, speaking mostly about Georgetown in basketball). If we hadn't received an invite from the ACC, chances are I'd be opposed. But since Syracuse can currently count itself on the right side of the shuffling, it's hard to see it as all bad. On top of that, it's not as if our football rivalries have tons of history. Our longest-standing "regular" opponents are Boston College, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, really, so this move actually keeps us with two of those teams (including the one we care most about, BC).
More questions after the jump.
Syracuse was a founding member of the Big East. What are your feelings on leaving the conference you've called home for over 30 years? Yes, we were a founding member of the Big East, but the conference we're leaving is not the one we were instrumental in starting. Originally, it was just a bunch of strong basketball schools in the Northeast, who previously had no history with each other. In football, the league's only existed since 1991, and was simply an amalgamation of the basketball schools and some of the other eastern independents that lacked the media clout to go it alone anymore (Virginia Tech, Miami, specifically). So tracing back to the point I made in the previous answer, there's not as much history left behind as you'd think.
What are your thoughts on joining the ACC? Honestly, I'm excited about it. Like I said, we end up on the right side of conference realignment, and get to rejoin longtime rivals Boston College in football. The ACC has tons of tradition in football and hoops, so it'll be cool for us to initiate ourselves into those traditions, despite leaving some of our Northeast roots behind. On top of that, I'm happy to see Syracuse striving to associate itself with similar institutions. In spite of the North/South difference, we've got a lot more in common with our new conference brethren than we did with the the majority of the Big East. There's already a great collection of private schools in the ACC, and it'll be a plus to associate ourselves with those schools, and the highly-regarded public institutions down there as well.
Would you rather stay in the Big East or join the ACC? Join the ACC, without a doubt. Look at the Big East right now. Do we want to be in the Atlantic division, or the Eastern division of the Big East with UCF, Rutgers and Temple? it's no contest. After awhile, both Pitt and Syracuse got sick of waiting for the Big East to be proactive, and like Miami, jumped when they had the chance. Both in the long- and short-term, the ACC is a better home for Syracuse athletics. Meanwhile, if we we'd stuck around in the Big East, we'd just be awaiting the eventual third raid by either the ACC, Big 12 or Big Ten.
After finishing 17-1 in the Big East in regular season, how disappointing was it to get knocked out in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments? The only tournament that matters is the NCAAs, so as great as it potentially could've been to win the Big East tournament, once we had a number-one seed wrapped up, the most important thing was our health. As for the NCAAs, of course it was disappointing to fall short of the fifth Final Four appearance in program history. But that said, considering we were without the services of our starting center (and Big East Defensive Player of the Year) Fab Melo, I think it was a fairly successful year. If we'd been at full strength, the thinking was "title or bust," but given the circumstances, 34-3, an Elite Eight and a regular season conference title seem pretty good to me.
The Syracuse football team has only won 8 games once in the past ten years. How does a historically good program perform so badly for so long? Two words: Greg Robinson. Mention his name around any Syracuse fan, and expect a 10-minute rant on the damage he caused. His arrival in 2005 resulted in the only double-digit loss seasons in team history, and turned us into the worst school in a Big East full of also-rans. Coincidentally, this precipitous drop also coincided with the rise of Rutgers, Connecticut and Boston College -- teams we used to beat regularly in recruiting battles, but have struggled against ever since. So to answer your question, THAT'S how a historically good program performs so badly for so long.
Most Clemson fans aren't very familiar with Syracuse athletics. What else should we know about Syracuse before the Orange join the ACC? Despite the recent football struggles, we actually have a pretty solid history on the gridiron (we've got a national title, and are the 15th-winningest program of all time). We play our football and basketball games in the same stadium -- the Carrier Dome -- where we regularly pack in 25,000+ for hoops, and around 40,000 for football (max. cap. is just under 50K). Syracuse sells beer at the Dome, something we're pretty adamant about. Sorry, John Swofford, but this is non-negotiable. On top of that, we're pretty serious about Orange. Word on the street says you are too.
Looking forward to joining you guys in the ACC. I'll have to get down to Memorial Stadium at some point, and experience the "most exciting 25 seconds in college football" for myself.