After some resistance to the SEC/Big East Challenge pairings, Syracuse has relented and will travel to Arkansas for its scheduled Nov. 30 matchup.
SU athletic director Daryl Gross announced on Tuesday that the disagreement with the Big East over the Orange’s participation in the SEC/Big East Challenge has been resolved. Gross previously saidin a mass email to conference officials and members that Syracuse would not participate in the challenge due to a scheduling conflict.
Gross’s insistence that the Orange’s schedule was “over-committed” appears to be a not-so-subtle attempt to back out of another non-conference road game with a less enticing payout. Syracuse has played only one scheduled non-league road game since 2008, an 88-72 bludgeoning of NC State last season at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. When the Orange last left the Empire State for a true, scheduled road game in December of 2008, the team traveled to Memphis for a showdown with the Tigers, ranked 18th nationally at the time.
Syracuse also played Kansas at the Sprint Center in Kansas City—roughly 40 miles off the university’s campus—for the championship game of the 2008 CBE Classic. But Syracuse did not schedule that quasi road game. Instead, it was an unscheduled title game of a preseason tournament. Give the Orange credit for playing Kansas in Kansas City—though playing the Jayhawks at the Phog would have made a bigger statement—not for actually scheduling the game.
How, again, can a school not have room on its schedule for a game it is contractually obligated to play? Syracuse is still, begrudgingly, a Big East member. And the Big East and SEC are bound by an ESPN-orchestrated pact to pit 12 teams from each conference against one another in an annual, interleague challenge.
That means Syracuse must bite the bullet and squelch its desire to hold out of the SEC/Big East challenge. So long as ESPN is meting out expensive rights fees for the games, the Orange, which is the premiere draw in the Big East Conference, must oblige. Syracuse is a big-time cash cow for both its conference and the network carrying the challenge. And that cash cow was not going to get a free pass, not while the Big East is running amok on a personal vengeance tour.