Syracuse and Pitt announced last week they were leaving the Big East Conference for the perceived greater glory and riches of the Atlantic Coast Conference. You probably shrugged. The upheaval in big-time college sports as old-school conferences morph into super conferences won’t be felt in the backwater that is Maine.

Steve Abbott begs to differ. The landscape is changing dramatically and it doesn’t matter if you’re the Big 10, the Big East or America East. That gobbling you hear isn’t from the turkeys in your backyard. It’s the sound of bigger conferences turning to smaller conferences and following the law of a different jungle.

The Big East will raid another conference to replace Syracuse and Pitt and maybe add more schools. Maybe picking on the Atlantic 10, home to Massachusetts, Richmond and Temple, just to name three. The Atlantic 10 could raid America East. Welcome, Boston University. Hello, Vermont.

Leaving America East to turn to whom?

Make no mistake. Cambridge, Mass., home to America East offices, and Orono may be far from the epicenter, but the aftershocks are being felt.

“Right now at each of the 341 Division I schools in the NCAA, there should be these discussions on what is changing and how it affects them. With the possible exception of the (Ivy League schools), everything is going to be different,” said Abbott.

Abbott is in his second year as Maine’s athletic director and is still learning the differences between running a U.S. senator’s staff and running the sports arm of a state university. He has to notice the similarities, too.

He understands that Maine and America East should be proactive rather than reacting to movement that is out of their control. Adjust quickly or become irrelevant.

“This is a chance to shape the future and that’s good, said Abbott. “The goal is to establish a stable conference.”

It’s time for America East to bring football inside its house. Only four of its nine schools play football and those four are in three different conferences: Maine and New Hampshire in the Colonial, Albany in the Northeast and Stony Brook in the Big South with schools like Coastal Carolina, Gardner-Webb and Charleston South.

Bryant University and Central Connecticut State, already in the Northeast Conference, could be targets for America East. So could Fordham, now an associate member of the Patriot League after it switched from a non-football scholarship program to granting scholarships. Merrimack, already a Hockey East opponent, might upgrade its football program to Division I-AA status.

America East has not yet named a successor to Patrick Nero, its commissioner who left to become athletic director at George Washington University. That doesn’t mean the realignment of other conferences hasn’t been discussed along with this: How can America East strengthen its own house.

“We’re always thinking three or four dominoes ahead,” said America East associate commissioner Matt Bourque.

When people are introduced to Bourque, a Bath native, they comment on the conference’s success in football and hockey. Bourque has to correct them. New Hampshire and Boston University are America East schools and football and hockey contenders, but in two leagues America East does not control.

“We do subscribe to (the idea) that football drives college sports,” said Bourque.

He gets it. Instead of hand-wringing and simply trying to survive, now is the time to think out of the box and grow.

The Big East believed basketball was the face of its conference — yes, when its conference tournament played out at Madison Square Garden and five, six or seven member schools moved on to celebrate March Madness.

In every other section of the country but the Northeast and especially New England, college football is the fever. Basketball put Connecticut on the map thanks to the national titles won by the men’s and women’s teams. But Connecticut, too, will be under new pressure to follow Pitt and Syracuse into the ACC to continue its transition from a I-AA football program to a BCS contender.

Thursday, Abbott reiterated Maine’s commitment to football. No aspirations to move up to Division I, no moving down to Division II. And while the frantic pace of realignment slowed the other day when the presidents of the Pac-12 voted to remain a 12-team conference, many believe more change is coming.

Change can herald a new day, not a dark age.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: SteveSolloway