- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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It would be easy for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to be diplomatic about Syracuse's move to the ACC. He could have stayed quiet, issued a comment here or there, and let others say what they wanted to say. At the end of the day, that would have been the easiest play.
Boeheim has never been about the easy play, and he's never been one to shy from speaking his mind. That's part of his charm. So it's probably no surprise that Boeheim has fired back at some of the angry pro-Big East sentiment with pointed criticism of his program's soon-to-be former conference. He did so on "Outside The Lines" earlier this week, and he repeated some of the same arguments to the Syracuse Post-Standard Tuesday.
How does he feel about former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese's apparent shock at Syracuse's decision?
"The Big East added teams, raided other conferences, when he was the commissioner. I have great respect for him, but we raided Conference-USA to get teams when we needed to. This has been going on for 100 years. We raided the Atlantic 10 to get West Virginia and Villanova, right? I don’t see that the Big East can sit back and say we’ve never done anything like this. So, I think that’s a little bit. [...] But the league is not the league it used to be. It’s 17 teams, 20 teams, who knows? We’re not leaving what we loved. It’s different. Completely."
How does Boeheim feel about Big East commissioner John Marianatto's assertion that the Big East would force Syracuse and Pittsburgh to stay in the conference for the rest of its 27-month exit agreement?
“I think that speaks to the problem in our league,’’ Boeheim said. “That’s foolish. He should be thinking about how he can save the Big East, not keep Syracuse and Pitt hostage. The best way to save the Big East is to get out and get a couple teams to come in. Because we’re gone. He needs to concentrate on getting somebody to replace us.’’
And what about Marianatto's leadership in general?
“That’s the problem with the Big East right now,’’ Boeheim said. “Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese are not running the Big East right now. That comment. He should be working on strengthening the Big East. What if two or three other teams leave this week? Then what is he going to do? I think if that happens he should either get the non-football schools in a league or else he’s got to get five or six football schools in a hurry. It would be silly to play another year in the Big East.’’
In other words: Thanks for the memories, guys, but don't you think you're being a little bit hypocritical?
He has a point. The Big East has always been happy to do what it thought it needed to do to survive, and in the modern college sports landscape, that has meant adding teams with football programs even if they aren't obvious fits for a traditional northeast corridor basketball league. The Big East was happy to take teams from the Atlantic-10 and Conference USA to do so. It was happy to add TCU -- probably the least "Big East" athletics school of all-time -- when it seemed prudent this year.
So while you can understand the Big East's sadness that a charter member would leave for what can only be described as a "rival" conference (i.e., another East Coast league whose main traditional emphasis has always been basketball), can the Big East really wax poetic on the vagaries of betrayal when it's been willing to expand in its own progressive ways for years? Like I said: Boeheim has a point.