Don’t blink. If you do, you might miss the latest in the seemingly never-ending saga that is conference realignment in college athletics. One of the many latest developments is news that the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be leaving the Big East for the ACC. Will there be other defections? Perhaps. I’m not the right guy to ask quite frankly. And as you’ll hear Jamie Dixon say, it’s still too early to try to figure out what all this change means until all the movement is through with and the dust truly begins to settle on what will wind up being one of the most significant shakeups in the history of college sports. The changes won’t take affect until the 2012-2013 season, and if the past few months are any indication of what might still be in store, it’s certainly too early to start forecasting what conferences may or may not look like. There’s just been too much activity on too frequent of a basis.
Dixon joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to talk about the recent SI column that hypothesized that Pitt would suffer from no longer being able to easily recruit in markets like New York upon leaving the Big East, if he’d agree that the new-look ACC will be the best basketball conference in the country with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse, what kind of challenges he thinks his program will face making the transition from playing a bruising style of ball like they did in the Big East to a more finesse game in the uptempo ACC, if he at all feels bad about trying to initiate the move of his alma mater, TCU, to the Big East only to see the conference be in such flux shortly thereafter, and how he respects rivalry games but is still confident that new rivalries can be reborn provided the Panthers continue to win and get everybody’s best shot in whatever new competitive environment they find themselves in in the ACC.
On the recent Sports Illustrated column that said that Pitt hoops would suffer from not being able to easily recruit kids from New York and the other major east coast cities by virtue of their association with the Big East:
“I actually read that article, there was a lot more to that article than just that line, but I mean, there’s still planes, there’s still flights going into New York, D.C., Philly — we’re going to be in there. And hopefully we’re still going to be playing there. I’ll just have to see how it all falls out here in the near future with the rest of the league to see if there’s any more movement. But the reality of it is BC is the conference, Virginia Tech, Miami — former Big East teams — and then now with Syracuse in the league, there’s five of the 14 and there could be some others. So once it all settles, it won’t be quite as much change as it may seem initially.”
If he’d agree that the new-look ACC will be the best conference in America:
“Well let’s see how it plays out and what happens and when we all get together and what the timing is, but I think obviously Syracuse and Pittsburgh, obviously it brings some things to the table basketball-wise. And they’ve got some great programs there in the ACC and the Big East going forward. So we’ll see how things play out and progress, and who gets better in those years in the next couple of years before we all come together in the ACC.”
Whether he thinks a bruising style of play or a more finesse game is the best way to win at the college level:
“Yeah, there’s going to be a lot put into the style of play. I said this earlier, we’re going to always be known as a team that’s physical and tough and plays hard defense because we’re from Pittsburgh and the Steelers have had success. And we do try to do things as the Steeler organization does in so many ways, but the reality is we’ve been number one in the country in offensive efficiency and that just doesn’t seem to fit the story as well so that doesn’t get talked about as much. But to be the record we’ve had, you have to be pretty good both sides of the ball and do a lot of things well and play a lot of different styles and plat against a lot of different styles.”
If he feels awkward or bad about supposedly being the one who initiated the process of TCU joining the Big East, only to see the conference dissolve shortly thereafter:
“The bottom line is they’re in a better position than they would have been if they had not reached out to the Big East. So that’s the most important thing. I’m very concerned with where they end up as an alumnus, but I think they’re going to be in a much better position than where they were two years ago, three years ago, and they’re going to have more opportunities once this whole thing played. But they’re a BCS school now, everyone thinks of them as a BCS school now, and that’s the most important thing once they go forward. So I think they’re, again, going to land in a better sport than where they were several years ago.”
If he’s concerned about the potential loss of rivalry games with schools like UCONN and, of course, West Virginia:
“Yeah, I’ve talked about that before. We’ve got some great rivalries, but we became rivals with Marquette once they joined. They think of us as their rival, Louisville thinks of us as a rival. Rivalries start back up, and rivalries will be reignited and renewed when you talk about BC, Virginia Tech, Syracuse will continue obviously, and then we’ll see where this thing goes as it plays out. But we seem to end up speculating on these things so much before they’re completed or before they even happen, so let’s see how this thing finishes out. But you know, I think if we win games, we’ll have plenty of rivalries. And that’s kind of what happened in the Big East. When you have the best record in the conference, people tend to look as you as a rival, and that game becomes a little bit more important to them. So we need to win games first and foremost, and we’ll pick up plenty of rivals real quick.”