SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Big East has reached an agreement with Syracuse University, allowing the Orange to leave the league a year early for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Syracuse announced last fall its intention to join the ACC, but under Big East bylaws the school needed to serve a 27-month exit period. Instead, the Orange will now be allowed to leave on July 1, 2013 and will have to pay a fee of $7.5 million to depart. That’s $2.5 million more than specified in the conference bylaws.
“Both sides thought the deal was truly reasonable, and it was done in a most collegial way,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said. “We’re excited that we were able to negotiate and that sophisticated minds came into play and we were able to get it done.”
Under the terms of the agreement, a vote will be taken the next time the Big East Conference presidents meet, likely via teleconference. That session has not been officially scheduled yet, according to associate commissioner John Paquette, but it’s a mere formality now.
“This closes a chapter and opens a new one filled with exciting possibilities for the Big East’s future,” interim commissioner Joe Bailey said. “With the recent addition of eight schools to the Big East, the future for the conference has never been brighter.”
Pitt will also leave the Big East for the ACC, but its departure date remains uncertain. The school filed a complaint in a Pennsylvania court in early May, claiming the Big East had waived its right to enforce its 27-month withdrawal notice and that the Panthers should be allowed to move to the ACC without further penalty by the 2013-14 conference year.
While that case is still pending, Syracuse’s future is no longer in doubt.
“We look forward to the new academic and athletic partnerships and the extraordinary competitive opportunities that membership in the ACC offers,” Gross said. “We are excited about both our final season in the Big East and our long-term future with the ACC.
The Big East was formed in 1979 with Syracuse as one of seven original members. Moving to a new conference will be a bittersweet moment for the Orange and men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim, the all-time winningest coach in league history with 393 victories.
“We have tremendous memories in the Big East,” Gross said. “Next year will be a year we know we’ll reflect upon as we go through it. It’s actually nice that we have this year to transition.”
Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced last September they were jumping to the ACC, and the Big East initially announced it would hold both schools to their league membership through the 2014-15 season. Pitt paid half its $5 million exit fee at the time of the announcement and agreed to remain in the conference until July 1, 2014.
That move prompted Big East member West Virginia and TCU, which had agreed to join the Big East in 2012, to instead bolt for the Big 12, and the Big East extended membership offers to Boise State and San Diego State, among others.
Pitt argued since the Big East allowed West Virginia and TCU to exit the conference immediately that Pitt was no longer required to abide by the 27-month waiting period. The school and the Big East appeared to be making progress toward a resolution earlier this year when former commissioner John Marinatto hinted the conference was open to letting Pitt leave a year early.
When Pitt does get its release from the Big East, the ACC will go to a nine-game conference schedule in football. ACC Commissioner John Swofford said all 14 schools would play in both the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments.
“The ACC looks forward to the arrival of Syracuse as a playing member on July 1, 2013,” Swofford said. “Syracuse will be an outstanding addition to the ACC. We’ve been preparing to welcome them into our membership and I’m pleased that Syracuse and the Big East were able to come to an agreement.
“As a league, we continue to be excited about our future.”