Syracuse Orange: Leaving the Big East was tough, but ‘Cuse had to do it

The ACC’s long-time commissioner, John Swofford, has announced his retirement, and he played a critical role in the Syracuse Orange leaving the Big East.

There is a large contingent of Syracuse Orange fans that laments about the move by the ‘Cuse to leave the old Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference, beginning with the 2013-14 season.

Why bring this up now? Well, the ACC’s commissioner for the past 24 years, John Swofford, has announced that he will retire after the 2020-21 athletic term.

Swofford, the longest-serving commissioner in the league’s 67-year history, has achieved many things during his tenure, and one of the most-important ones is the ACC expanding to 15 members, including the latest entrants Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville.

Okay, I get it, many of us, myself included, miss Big East basketball. Yet years ago, when conference realignments were in full force, the Orange really had to make a move so that it wouldn’t get left behind, especially as it relates to football and lucrative television revenue.

These days, sure, ‘Cuse basketball has struggled through multiple regular seasons since it began in the ACC with the 2013-14 stanza. However, Syracuse’s “new” league is one of the top-two basketball conferences in the country, along with the Big Ten.

I think we can all agree that suiting up against the likes of Duke, North Carolina and Virginia, among others, is pretty darn cool. And the Orange continues to face off with Georgetown.

The ‘Cuse has also possessed some disappointing football campaigns of late, but by leaving the Big East for the ACC, Syracuse made sure it stayed in a Power 5 conference, where opportunities for attractive bowl options are available, should the Orange take care of business on the field.

Swofford, in his more than two decades at the helm of the ACC, has led it to have the largest geographical footprint. He was pivotal in commencing the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, a huge basketball draw, as well as developing the ACC Football Championship Game.

What’s more, under Swofford, the conference linked together with ESPN nearly a year ago to launch the ACC Network.

All of these efforts, and numerous more, came with Swofford out in front, and such initiatives in turn undoubtedly result in additional revenue for athletics departments at the ‘Cuse and elsewhere throughout the ACC.

And, importantly, money generated by football and basketball helps Syracuse to fund its non-revenue, Olympic sports.

Per the ACC press release on his upcoming retirement, Swofford also “played a key role in the evolution of the College Football Playoff … hired the league’s first full-time women’s basketball administrator, started the ACC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and implemented the annual ACC Mental Health and Wellness Summit.”

Syracuse Orange officials give high praise to John Swofford, the ACC’s longest-tenured commissioner.

Syracuse athletics director John Wildhack said in a cuse.com statement, “In his 24 years as Commissioner of the ACC, John Swofford has led the conference deftly throughout a period of great change in intercollegiate athletics. Under John’s stewardship the ACC has achieved at the highest level, both competitively and academically. His legacy is one of tremendous accomplishment.”

I’ll never fully get used to the ‘Cuse competing in the ACC, and maybe that’s partly due to the fact that I attended Syracuse University two-plus decades ago.

Regardless, from my perspective, it’s clear that the Orange is better off in many facets due to its relocation from the Big East to the ACC. So for that, Mr. Swofford, we thank you.

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