Welcome to the Atlantic Coast Conference. For real.
A new era begins Monday night for University of Louisville athletics, the first conference game ever in the ACC for any University of Louisville team in any sport. Appropriate that it would be in football because it was the sport that drove conference realignment, unprecedented changes in the college landscape making it possible for UofL to be on the main stage.
Lots of celebrating and self-congratulating over the past summer and the last year or so, punctuated by the demolition of massive silos, an impressive expansion of student housing, academic facilities and an ever-changing campus landscape. Louisville belongs, a member of the big boy club, welcomed with open arms by the respected members of the prestigious ACC.
Now it’s time to get down to business.
While UofL’s first game against Miami is accompanied by the enthusiasm of the return of Coach Bobby Petrino and his aggressive offensive philosophy, there is lots of uncertainty to go around. A complete turnover in the coaching staff brings with it a learning curve, new plays, new ways of doing things, new offensive and defensive alignments, new officiating crews — items that often require periods of adjustment.
Then, of course, there’s the absence of DeVante Parker, the team’s leading receiver, and questions surrounding the availability of Michael Dyer, who was expected to back at full force until he suffered an severe bruised thigh. Some untested newcomers on the offensive and defensive lines.
Lot of questions from fans, serious challenges for the coaches, the kind of stuff Petrino relishes, why he thrives on being a football coach. Petrino has indicated that he liked what he inherited and has alleviated some of the shortcomings. If he’s optimistic, who’s to question him?
At 8 p.m. on Labor Day, the captains of the Cardinals and the Hurricanes will meet with the officials on the 50-yard line for the coin toss. The only thing for sure is that Louisville will get the ball first. If UofL wins the coin toss, it will choose to receive. If Miami wins, it will defer until the second half, not wanting to test its freshman quarterback too early, going on defense. Bobby Petrino always wants the ball first.
The aggressive approach has always worked well for Petrino in football, just as it turned out spendidly for Tom Jurich in the larger chess game of conference realignment. The challenges are huge, dwarfing some of those from the past with UofL overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles time after time to get to where it is today.
Welcome to the ACC where anything is possible.