Memphis big in Times Square

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The University of Memphis is already reaping major benefits from being invited to the Big East Conference, receiving V.I.P. treatment in a huge way in New York City’s Times Square. The advertising was sponsored by American Outfitters. Click on the thumbnail (from the Big East’s Facebook page) to get a feel for the effect at one the world’s busiest and most prestigious intersections.
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Bridgewater unanimous as Big East Rookie of the Year

Terry Bridgewater captured all the votes for newcomer honors in the Big East.

Bridgewater guided the University of Louisville to the program’s second conference football title and a trip to its 16th bowl game. He is the second-straight U of Lplayer to win this award. Safety Hakeem Smith earned the honor as a red-shirt freshman in 2010, senior running back Victor Anderson in 2008.

The first true freshman to start for the Cardinals at quarterback since 1976, Bridgewater threw for 1,855 yards, surpassing Chris Redman’s freshman passing yardage record, and 12 touchdowns this year. He completed an efficient 66.0 percent of his throws, connecting on 167 of his 253 passes.

  • Junior cornerback Adrian Bushell was a first team All-Conference selection after recording 43 tackles and one interception.
  • Senior linebacker Dexter Heyman was named to the All-BIG EAST second team on defense. The team’s leading tackler, Heyman started all 12 games at middle linebacker for the Cardinals, recording 83 tackles and a team-best 15.5 tackles for loss.

Somehow someone other than Charlie Strong was voted Coach of the Year by the coaches, Butch Jones of Cincinnati with senior-laden offensive and defensive units. Go figure.

Ready for BYU, Boise State in the Big East

This Big East Conference is hard at work at becoming much more relevant where it matters most — in football.

ESPN is reporting that Brigham Young (BYU) is giving serious consideration to becoming a football-only member, bringing with it some serious respect and a built-in national following of fans second only to Notre Dame.

Boise State and Houston, currently ranked 10th and 11th nationally in the most recent BCS standings, are reportedly close to accepting invitations as well. Boise State would be football only, Houston for all sports.

The longer this conference realignment takes, the better the situation looks for the University of Louisville, which desperately needs the Big East Conference to retain its automatic qualifier status until 2014 and beyond. Adding BYU, Boise State and Houston would almost guarantee that while making the Big East stronger than it is now.

Other new members being mentioned have included Air Force and Navy in football, and UCF and SMU in all sports — all of them with strong commitments to their football programs. BYU would be a good replacement for Air Force, which is said to have been wavering of late.

Concerned about basketball? Don’t be. The Big East will continue to be a major basketball power, with the likes of Louisville, UConn, Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, St. John’s, and Georgetown.

There may be advantages to shedding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia from night in and night out grind of Big East basketball as well. But the football schedule is about to become even more challenging.

Conference affiliations come and go, but Louisville always emerges

Editor’s note: Apparently some Big 12 schools are not pleased with West Virignia being picked over Louisville, and that move is meeting some resistance as we speak. Regardless of how that turns out, the following will remain true:

Feeling slighted by the lack of an invitation to the Big 12? Of course.

But the first thing for University of Louisville fans need to remember is that the school has been here in this situation before. It could be argued that U of L has been in inferior conferences for most of its athletic existence.

Over the years, Louisville has competed in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Ohio Valley Conference, the Missouri Valley Conference, the Metro Conference, Conference USA, and the Big East Conference. The KIAC, the OVC, the MVC and the Big East are still around, the others have been relegated to ash heap of conference realignments.

Tom Jurich

The one constant is that the University of Louisville has been always successful, enjoying significant athletic achievements, adding state-of-the-art facilities and increasing its fan base in ways that are the envy of many schools, both inside and outside of major conferences.

The athletic feats over the years include two national basketball championships. three top 10 finishes and a BCS win in football, a College World Series appearance in baseball, national championship appearances in women’s basketball and soccer, and a couple of dozen conference championships in different sports along the way.

Facilities include the 22,000-seat Kentucky Yum! Center, a 55,000-seat Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and super playing facilities for the non-revenue sports. Fan support in basketball is consistently among the top three in the nation and football attendance has grown from 32,000 a couple of seasons ago to more than 48,000 fans per game.

Not being invited to the Big 12 is disappointing for sure, but it’s not the end of fanaticism for U of L sports. Despite what the pessimists say, those inclined to gnashing of teeth and getting off the ship. Who needs or wants those kind of fans anyway?

If the Big East is to be our home, U of L will work to make it better and loyal fans will get behind the efforts. There are options, especially now that Louisville is in a leadership role. I’m never going to advocate Tom Jurich to be conference commissioner because we need him here. He’s the one responsible for the phenomenal progress over the past decade.

Those being critical of Jurich for not getting U of L in the Big 12 fail to recognize that he was the person that made UofL’s consideration possible. Take the bitching and shove it.

Many different scenarios are being played out for strengthening the Big East. If the Big 12 is in the rear view mirror, Jurich can refocus his considerable creativity and energies on that singular objective.  Have no doubt that that will include a new structure for football schools. Unless one is a football snob, one has to admit some decent programs being mentioned.

No, the reshaping of the Big East is never going to be the Big 12 or the Big Whatever, but rest assured that Tom Jurich will do everything possible to strengthen the conference.  We should expect no less. But he will also ensure that U of L has opportunities to grow and build on its accomplishments no matter where UofL is situated.

Conference affiliations have come and gone but Louisville has remained strong. That’s not going to change.