How Syracuse and Pittsburgh Unethically Began Destruction of Big East Basketball
As a Georgetown alum, I was both infuriated by and despondent at the news that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were leaving the Big East.
Don't get me wrong, it's always satisfying to blame our two biggest rivals for anything and everything—especially when they (their president's really) display such shameful, greedy and hypocritical behavior—but the news of the of the Syracuse and Pittsburgh jumping ship is also a sad day for the Big East and college basketball as a whole.
Syracuse was one of the four original founding members of the Big East way back in 1979 (along with Georgetown, Providence and St. John's) and is probably its most iconic program.
Pittsburgh joined three years later in 1982 and since the two schools have come to define the tough, spirited battles and winning traditions that Big East college basketball has long been know for.
No league is as grueling a regular season test.
No tournament is more exciting than the The Big East championships under the lights of Madison Square Garden and no conference - save for the ACC - can match the legendary coaches and NBA caliber players that have defined the Big East for three decades.
Now, with two of the league's beloved superpowers leaving (and UConn and others desperate to join them), such storied tournament moments and heated February rivalries will die with their departure.
Our first week at Georgetown, we were taught three things: we learned the rich history of our school, we learned where the library was (and how much more time we'd be there than we hoped) and we learned to hate Syracuse and Pitt.
Are Super Conferences Good for College Sports
We also learned to respect both teams, a hard lesson and something the new freshman won't have to grapple with anymore.
The end of the Big East as a power conference is here because the presidents of Syracuse and Pittsburgh were greedy and acted in a manner unbefitting of universities in which they represent.
Syracuse's chancellor Nancy Cantor offered a weak and specious defense claiming that joining the ACC was necessary as, "conference realignment gives some instability to the landscape."
But wait, what was so unstable about the Big East? Wasn't it Pitt and Syracuse who falsely manufactured such uncertainty? Didn't they decide to the leave the most powerful basketball conference with the biggest TV markets in the country?
Wasn't it Pitt President Mark Nordenberg who persuaded the conference not to accept a massive deal from ESPN instead convincing the league to play the market?
Yep, yep and yep.
Yet Cantor's concocted justification doesn't come close to the hypocrisy with which Pittsburgh president is acting.
Apparently president Mark Nordenberg chose to forget history when he stated, "We did make it clear within the Big East, we were willing to improve the conference in any way we were asked. At the same time, we made it very clear that if other opportunities did arise, we would feel obligated to seriously assess them and look at the long-term future of the University of Pittsburgh."
That sounds like something any responsible university president would say until you recall that Pittsburgh, along with four other Big East schools, sued Boston College after BC ditched the Big East for the ACC in 2003.
At the time, Pitt released a statement saying, "This is a case that involves broken commitments, secret dealings, breaches of fiduciary responsibility, the misappropriations of conference opportunities and predatory attempts to eliminate competition."
Any idea who authored that comment? You guessed it: Nordenberg himself. Sounds like loyalty, responsibility and integrity don't apply to Nordenberg when he's set to profit.
Even Dick Vitale, long known for his love-affair with school administrators, took to Twitter to mocking Pitt's president by writing, "Mr. Loyalty Man of the Year Pitt Prez Mark Nordenberg...." and later, "Mr. Nordenberg as Chair Big East Presidents showed lack of ETHICS in rallying his troops to bolt to ACC - serving as #1 Prez in Big East."
(Note to Pitt students, pass on the ethics courses, apparently morality is not a priority at your university).
So on the same weekend that venerable Dave Gavitt, founder of the original Big East and long-time commissioner passed away, Syracuse (an original member) and Pittsburgh, stab his legacy in the back and have destroyed the once mighty Big East.
No longer will we see six-overtime game thrillers in the Garden. No longer will epic rivalries take place and no longer will playing in the Big East essentially guarantee one of the league's team will reach the Final Four.
It's a sad day for college athletics but at least while we Georgetown fans are fretting our own school's future, as we watch two great teams (and more to follow) desert the Big East, we can hold our heads held high knowing we had a 40-34 record against Pitt.
It would have been fun to continue two of college basketball's greatest rivalries. Too bad the Syracuse and Pittsburgh didn't agree.
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