At the press conference following the University of Louisville’s acceptance into the Atlantic Coast Conference, Tom Jurich was relieved and elated. But it was obvious that he had some other issues on his mind, at least to this observer.
Now we may know some of the issues still facing him that day, with the possible collapse of the Big East and announced plans of seven Catholic basketball schools to form their own league, possibly taking the Big East name with them.
Chadd Scott, a respected blogger believes Jurich may have been the glue holding the Big East together following the departure of West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Rutgers and Syracuse to other leagues:
His force of personality, passion and belief in the conference held the fractioning league united as long as it did … I had Jurich put the full court press on me about the Big East’s attributes and I’m sure he made the same pitch daily to the league’s other athletic directors and presidents, convincing them this could still work, convincing them that despite the departures of Pitt and Syracuse, despite the departure of West Virginia, despite the departure of Notre Dame, despite the departure of Rutgers… the Big East, a Big East, was still viable.
UofL could incur a major financial hit if the basketball schools form their own league before the 2013 season and there is no television contract in place. There would be some major scheduling challenges numerous sports programs as well. Notre Dame, which won’t become a member of the ACC for two more years, has similar concerns, as Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told Sports Illustrated:
“It is an untenable situation and we have to actively consider how we can get to resolution. You have two halves of a conference splitting and that creates real uncertainty for Notre Dame given the things that have to be negotiated among those parties.”
If the basketball schools leave early, will there even be a Big East basketball league in 2013? And what happens with the scheduling for UofL’s 22 other sports besides football? Mike Aresco, the Big East Commissioner, still reeling from all the negative fallout could only respond this way in the same article:
“We had engaged in preliminary discussions with Notre Dame. Those discussions would likely be resumed. The basketball schools’ announcement was just made on Saturday. By terms of our bylaws, Notre Dame could be playing in our conference through 2014-15 as would the basketball schools, Louisville and Rutgers.”
Aresco is preparing for negotiations for exit fees, obviously. He really doesn’t expect them to be sticking around that long. That’s the least of the problems for UofL, Notre Dame and Rutgers. Concern for the immediate future is what has them working the phones these days.
Part of the price Tom Jurich paying for UofL’s invitation to the Big East is the dissolution of the conference that he loved so much. He had to see it coming, knowing there were no easy fixes.