AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- Pitt and Syracuse are caught in a bit of no man's land right now. With one foot out of the Big East door and one foot in the ACC door, the two schools had their representatives at the ACC spring meetings this week.
It may seem strange or awkward, but the programs are persona non grata at the Big East, after announcing their defections last September. They will not be at the Big East spring meetings next week, and are trying to move forward with their eyes to the ACC future.
But when that future will begin remains up in the air. Though former Big East commissioner John Marinatto said previously he was hopeful a resolution could be reached to allow Pitt and Syracuse to leave the Big East a year early and join the ACC for the 2013 season, nothing has been determined.
Pitt has grown frustrated with efforts to negotiate, and filed suit against the Big East last week in Pennsylvania in order to be allowed to leave a year earlier than the required 27-month waiting period. Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson declined further comment on the suit while at the ACC meetings.
Syracuse, on the other hand, has not taken any legal action. Athletic director Daryl Gross said Tuesday that he remained hopeful a deal could be arranged without resorting to a lawsuit.
"We’re obviously going to keep all our options open, but I’m still confident that there’s a lot of bright people, sophisticated people that can get together and solve this in a quick fashion," Gross said.
He recently had talks with Marinatto about getting out of the Big East after this season, now that the league has reconstituted itself. But Marinatto has since resigned, and Joe Bailey has been hired as interim commissioner.
"We’ve been collegial throughout this process," Gross said. "It seems they’ve gotten to a point where they have their teams solidified and now it’s time for us to move out of the way. One, they need to move on with their life and set up whatever TV contracts and rights. Two, we need to move on with our life as an institution as well. We still believe we can sit down and negotiate and talk about a graceful departure."
Does he have a timetable for a resolution before taking another step? "I’m confident we can work things out and then we’ll go from there."
Was he surprised Pitt went the legal route: "I’m not surprised because I think there’s an urgency. I think folks have shown patience and we’re getting to a point where we really need to move forward. There should be some urgency with this because folks have been patient. I understand."
For their parts, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and Pitt coach Paul Chryst have stayed above the fray. When asked about his feelings about being at the ACC meetings, despite having a Big East schedule to play this year, Marrone said, "For us it’s a standpoint of excitement. It’s a great introduction and looking forward to what the future holds for us. My focus is to make sure that our football team, we need to win football games. It just changes, you put yourself in that mode but it’s very exciting to see where we’re going."
Chryst is attending his first spring meetings as a head coach, so this all was a new experience and conference affiliation hardly mattered. He doesn't have an opinion one way or the other about when Pitt should start ACC play.
"Not that you don’t care about it, but really, they’re not asking me," he said. "I have no problem taking what’s in front of you and focusing on those things."