And we thought that playing Syracuse once a year was bad.
Georgetown now faces a future where its most hated rival isn’t guaranteed to appear on the schedule at all. That might be the least of Georgetown’s concerns, however, after Syracuse and Pittsburgh submitted applications and were accepted to the Atlantic Coast Conference over the weekend. The move is a serious blow to both the tradition and competitiveness of the Big East, and it may only be the beginning of a drastic conference realignment.
This won’t be a clean breakup. Syracuse and Pitt will awkwardly linger on the Hoyas’ schedules for at least this year and possibly longer. The Big East requires departing members to pay a $5 million exit fee and give 27 months notice, but don’t be surprised if that timetable is negotiated down to avoid an extended lame duck period.
More importantly, Syracuse and Pitt are just the first dominoes to fall. UConn and Villanova are already trying to join them in the ACC, rumors abound about Rutgers and West Virginia, and the Big East will surely look to reload by poaching from other conferences. Just don’t expect Georgetown to be among the first defectors.
“As a founding member of the Big East in 1979, we have confronted challenging moments in the past and we are confident that as we work through the events of the past days we will maintain the high quality of the Big East Conference,” Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said in a statement released Sunday night.
Of course, Georgetown might not have any suitors outside of the Big East. The spate of conference realignment that began with the formation of the Pac-12 and Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten last summer is all about economics, and when it comes to college athletics the money is in football. That’s Bowl Championship Series football, not Patriot League football. Even Villanova, which plays football in the same Championship Subdivision as Georgetown, at least has a reasonable chance of making the jump to the upper division within a few years. There’s no hope of that for Georgetown as long as the Hoya football program remains non-scholarship. And based on President John DeGioia’s comments earlier this month, that’s not changing any time soon.
It’s too early to predict where Georgetown will end up in all of this. More will become clear when the next two pieces of the puzzle, Oklahoma and Texas, fall into place. If both schools head to the Pac-12, the Big East could potentially replenish itself with the remnants of the Big 12. Or this could be the start of a mass exodus from the Big East, forcing Georgetown to either band together with the remaining non-football schools in a weakened conference or find a new league.
For now though, Georgetown seems to be standing by the conference it helped found over 30 years ago. Men’s basketball head coach John Thompson III echoed Reed’s statement when talking to the Washington Post‘s Tarik El-Bashir on Saturday, before Syracuse and Pitt were officially accepted by the ACC.
Still, Thompson told El-Bashir: “Change is coming in one way, shape, or form.”