By Patrick Bohn
When it comes to the shifting pieces of conference realignment, most of the focus has been on football and men's basketball. However, there's a whole spate of other sports that will be equally affected by schools switching conferences.
Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor was frank regarding the Orange's move from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Responding to a question about why the school was switching conferences, Cantor told ESPN.com, "I would say that our concerns are really forward looking with respect to the ACC. The issues for us is that we have increasingly strong Olympic sports across the board, women sports -- the ACC is a wonderful match for that for us. And we really are obviously very excited about that."
While it's not an Olympic sport, one of Syracuse's strongest sports is men's lacrosse, where the Orange are a perennial national contender. The ACC is also home to traditional powers Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina. Syracuse's move from the Big East gives the ACC's five schools that sponsor lacrosse, which is one shy of the minimum needed for the conference to gain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That might inspire other schools in the conference to start a program.
"It almost seems like it's going to be a tipping point for some of the other schools in the ACC to step up in men's lacrosse now," Dom Starsia, Head Coach at the University of
Virginia, told USA Today. "I think it's a real possibility we could see some developments in the future as a result of this."
Joining Syracuse in the ACC will be the University of Pittsburgh, which also foresees a benefit to its non-revenue sports. For the women's soccer team, the move means an uptick in the quality of competition, but Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that will be a positive in the long run. "We'll be working extremely hard to get some high-level players," she said. "With the ACC, right away you get national recognition. That will help us. A lot of young players aspire to play in the ACC."
Allison Foley, Head Women's Soccer Coach at Boston College, agrees. "With a lot of the elite high school players, there is a lure with the ACC," she told the Post-Gazette. "The time line is hard to project, but I think Pitt and Syracuse will both find that little by little they're going to start getting better and better players into their programs. And the other thing is they're going to be playing against the best competition. I think in two or three years they're going to start seeing an impact."
The Panthers' baseball team is also in line for a boost thanks to the move. Like lacrosse and women's soccer, the ACC is considered a premier conference in college baseball, and joining the conference opens up a lot of opportunities for Pittsburgh, especially in recruiting. Head Coach Joe Jordano told the Post-Gazette that the team can target players outside the Northeast now.
Additional money from the conference also figures to boost Pittsburgh's bottom line, which should benefit the baseball team, which does not currently fund all scholarships allowed. "That's four or five studs you can add to your program," Jordano told the Post-Gazette. "For us, that could be two power arms, a power-hitting third baseman, a burner in center field who can hit and maybe a closer. It would add a whole new dynamic to our team."
Patrick Bohn is an Assistant Editor at Athletic Management