UConn and Syracuse say goodbye to their long-standing rivalry.
Fans of both the Syracuse Orange and the University of Connecticut Huskies were left disappointed Wednesday night.
Sure, the Huskies, with their heart and passion on display in a buzzing Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, discolored the Orange, 66-58, on Wednesday night in the final Big East game between the two teams.
But it was the end of the rivalry, which has existed as long as the Big East Conference itself, as many fans know it.
Syracuse will be leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, which will separate the teams from competing on a regular basis.
“It’s sad,” said Stephen Petkis, the president of UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government. “That’s the only way to describe it.”
Ben Glidden, the president of Otto’s Army the official name of the student section of Syracuse athletic competitions, was equally upset about the game as Petkis.
“It was disappointing, but it was a great way to end the rivalry,” he said. “It was cool for the last game to be such a competitive one. It was a good way to go out.”
Glidden watched Wednesday’s game with his roommates, whom he considered to be “pretty basic” compared to when he’s in the student section, cheering and hollering.
Syracuse’s campus is always ready for this game, Glidden said.
“We have a mutual respect for each other,” Glidden said. “We don’t like them, but we respect them.”
At UConn, fans packed the pavilion and willed the Huskies on. The campus was abuzz all week before the game as it is every year, Petkis said.
“Everyone at UConn pays attention to that rivalry,” he said. “It’s always the biggest game of the year.”
Jay Dizek, a pre-med major at UConn, didn’t attend the game because he had tests to study for, but he was still happy with the result.
“The game last night was the epitome of a Syracuse-UConn game,” he said.
Syracuse and UConn started trading blows in 1979 when the Big East was founded. Since then, the two schools have gone back and forth and are almost always featured on ESPN Rivalry Week in intense competition.
It was March 12, 2009, when the two teams went in six overtimes to crown the Big East champion. On Feb. 11, 2012, more than 33,000 fans packed into Syracuse’s Carrier Dome to see the two sides battle.
This rivalry is “what college basketball is all about,” Dizek said.
Petkis said he didn’t think the two teams would meet up in a non-conference contest in the near future since scheduling those games can be difficult. He said he expects a break for “quite a bit of time.”
So who’s next?
That’s the question many Syracuse and UConn fans face as they to move forward. Dizek said he could see UConn becoming rivals with the University of Cincinnati and the University of Memphis, which are both Big East schools. Petkis also said UConn’s next rival is likely going to be another conference team.
The ACC is pushing for a Boston College-Syracuse rivalry to start in the fall, Glidden said. But the Eagles, he said, are on a lower competitive level than the Orange.
As for Syracuse, many signs point toward Tobacco Road – where teams like Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State reside – for its next rival, Glidden said.
No matter who or what comes next, both sides are learning to say goodbye.
“The fact that Syracuse is leaving is tough,” he said. “You’re not going to have that game on the schedule anymore.”
“It’s tough to say goodbye to a rivalry.”
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