Louisville waits patiently until Big 12 gets its conference realignment act together

Well, here we sit waiting. And waiting. 

Still.

More than a year now since the University of Louisville was first mentioned as a possible candidate for Big 12 Conference membership. One day U of L seems to be a shoo-in, the next day an untouchable. Sometimes the in and out occurs several times during a day. So much doublespeak, so many falsehoods, leaks, red herrings and rumors.

In fact, the conference realignment process often seems more driven by anonymous posters on fan message boards than the professionals overseeing the conferences.

Passed over for West Virginia, with a good football program, a fair basketball program and not much else. Presumably because UofL wouldn’t dump on the Big East Conference to get to the Big 12.

Now Louisville seems to falling behind, per all the leaks and rumors. This time to Florida State and any other team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that wants to get out of there. Clemson, even. A program that won a national football championship 30 years ago but is largely irrelevant in any other sport. Who else? Well, there’s Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, maybe even Maryland.

One thing UofL seems to lack, and it’s a huge impediment in a sport driven by stereotypes, is much of a football tradition. The future with Charlie Strong seems largely irrelevant in the cliques of academicians, TV network executives and former jocks making the decisions about Big 12 expansion. A larger TV market might be helpful but Louisville is among the top 50 and that doesn’t seem to be helping much.

A UofL athletic program so deserving still waiting, among the most financially successful in college athletics, winning conference championships, competing at the highest levels in basketball and a constant presence in NCAA tournaments in Olympic sports, a football program clearly on the rise, with athletic facilities that are among the newest, the largest and of the highest quality, and a growing fan base that is among the most devoted in the country.

The Big 12 knows what Louisville can bring to the conference, that’s why they keep stringing UofL along. But all the foot dragging, procrastination, and indecision has more to do with outdated stereotypes than reality. The old guard is territorial, slow to accept change, and overly cautious, even when opportunity is staring it in the face.

There is no grand plan involving logic or common sense. So we will continue to wait, unlikely to learn our fate until people in the inner circles are backed into a position where they are forced to actually make decisions. There will be a mad rush and anything can happen, contradicting everything that has happened up to that point.

Just wait and see.

Big 12 has incentive$ to grow again

If there’s one thing that can distract many University of Louisville supporters from basketball and March Madness, it’s the continuing suspense of the conference expansion issue and the next hand to be played.

The real question, the one that keeps many of us on the edge of our seats, is whether Louisville will be extended an invitation to join the Big XII Conference. Becoming a member of the club, getting initiated into one of the elite football conferences, would be the next giant advancement for the university.

Analysts have indicated that before U of L received an invitation, several things had to happen. They included the completion of an exit agreement between the Big East and West Virginia, the expansion of the Big East to include more football programs, and the agreement between the Big XII and the TV networks. The first two have occurred, and a TV deal appears to be near.

Brett McMurphy and Dennis Dodds of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday:

The Big 12’s current deal with ESPN/ABC doesn’t expire until 2016, but the conference and networks have been negotiating what is being termed an extension. The 13-year deal worth is expected to be worth at least $200 million annually through 2025. The deal is expected to “sync up” with a $1.2 billion, 13-year deal signed with Fox in April.

The new deal is for 18-20 top tier games per year according to industry sources. This new deal is based on a 10-team league and sources said it could be worth even more per school if the Big 12 expands to 11 or 12 teams.

If the deal goes through, each school would receive approximately $21 million a school annually. But, but yes, even more if the Big 12 expands to 11 or 12 teams. Guess who is said to be first in line if that occurs, followed closely by Brigham Young University.

Anything could happen, nothing could happen. Notre Dame keeps being mentioned as a wild card, along with Clemson and Florida State. They deny interest but that’s the public face. Who knows what is going on behind the scenes.

Just imagine what an athletic director like Tom Jurich could do with those kinds of resources, on top of what has been accomplished in the past decade with an absolute transformation of the athletic facilities. Hard to envision but he’s an individual with great vision.

The next few weeks and months are going to be tense for the university, no matter how Louisville fares in NCAA basketball.  So close, so many obstacles to clear, but that goal seems tantalizingly close. Let it happen. Please.

UK fans squirm with Louisville in SEC expansion discussion

Now the Associated Press is reporting that “a source” is saying the University of Louisville “makes the most sense to join the SEC.” We have to assume that the AP has a lot of respect for this particular source because there are others indicating Florida State, Clemson or Virginia Tech would be next in line after Texas A&M.

The day before that it was Missouri. And whatever happened to the idea of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Remember Georgia Tech. Even Central Florida has been mentioned in the conference expansion discussions.

Louisville is the school they love to hate. For them, that trumps any advantage of the state having two schools in the SEC.

We doubt there have been any dialogue between anyone at U of L with the SEC. More likely, it’s a trial balloon to gauge the reaction of fans in the SEC, including the state of Kentucky. Not that conference officials really care what fans think but it’s always good to include them in the process, if only on the periphery.

UK fans would have a difficult time accepting the fact that their fiercest rival would be a candidate for the SEC. Being Kentuckians and all that implies, they have managed to convince themselves that U of L is not worthy of membership in their exclusive club. That’s the one thing a haughty and boisterous segment of UK fans has going for it. Don’t expect them to ever embrace U of L as an equal.

Strange, they sure get excited about playing U of L. It’s the one game in basketball, football, baseball and soccer that they have to win. Louisville is the school they love to hate. For them, the hate trumps any advantage of their state having two schools in the SEC.

Whether U of L should or would accept an invitation to join the SEC is a topic for another day. For now, it’s interesting to be a part of discussion … and watching some of those nervous UK fans squirm, even if for a day or so.

Jurich ready for new round of conference expansion hysteria

The tremors had not yet reached the tropical paradise.

Tom Jurich gave little indication during his halftime TV interview during the Bahamas basketball exhibition game that he was aware of a possible move of Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference. A nice little chat with Drew Deener about how well things were going with University of Louisville athletics.

About an hour later, speculation would reach a fever pitch on the Internet, with Florida State having been added to the speculative mix, leaving the ACC for the SEC. Further fed by mentions of Clemson, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State

If any combination of the above occurred, the landscape of the college conference would change dramatically. Say, for example, the SEC decided to go to 16 teams. This would force the Big 12, the ACC, the Big Ten, and the PAC to enter the fray, taking the me-too approach to new levels. The Big East would again be pushed into a corner, its back against the wall.

Not that Jurich would have been alarmed or acted any differently.  He’s been here before, faced with the threat of dramatic changes in the conference landscape. No need to bring out the laundry list, but Jurich has laid the groundwork to ensure the University of Louisville athletic program, led by basketball and football, is positioned as a valuable conference candidate when the ground stops shaking.

What’s ironic about this continuing debacle is that so many universities, the self-proclaimed bastions of social equality, fairness, and wealth, are, in fact, are mired so deeply in the mud, selfishly indulging in the greed for riches that they rail against in every other forum while proclaiming their moral and intellectual superiority.

Balderdash! They’re not fooling anyone. Certainly not Tom Jurich, ready to play the next hand.

Possible Solution For Recruiting Abuse

As the road to the Final Four winds its way to Indianapolis, speculation is rampant about a vehicle loaded with elephants. Media analysts, however, usually focus on the agility of the beasts on board, ignoring how the collection was assembled.

Kentucky is an overwhelming favorite in the NCAA tournament, largely because it is propelled by one-and-done players collected by John Calipari. He’s apparently had a lot of help in raising the program from the ashes, with William Wesley (a.k.a., World Wide Wes), his long-time friend and confidant.

One has to believe coaches are receptive to any idea that helps them achieve a more level playing field in the recruiting process.

UK’s resurgence is not good for college basketball. Not when it is based on players with no apparent interest in a college education. To be fair, it is believed a similar connection was helpful to Denny Crum in recruiting the likes of Billy Thompson and Milt Wagner, members of Louisville’s 1986 championship team.

How does the NCAA prevent the continued abuse of the process, the hypocrisy? Possibly make some inroads? At least make an effort?

Don’t count on the National Basketball Association to come to the rescue. The NBA is not about to rescind its rule that prohibits teams from drafting players until they’re at least one year out of high school. For now, they don’t want teenagers on their rosters running around loose with pockets stuffed with cash. Too many bad things happen.

Strangely enough, a possible solution may have come from the Obama administration. While the observer would prefer government to have a hands-off policy, this intrusion into college sports might be a solution. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has proposed that the NCAA bar any team from participating in the post-season tournament if it fails to graduate at least 40 percent of their players, starting next year.

Louisville, even with Rhodes Scholar Will Scott on its resume, would not have been permitted to participate in the tournament this season. Neither would Kentucky, Baylor, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico State, Tennessee or Washington. The Final Four of eligible teams probably would have consisted of Brigham Young, Duke, Kansas and Texas.

Missing out on the tournament would sting, but the idea is likely to generate serious discussion in the months ahead. While they may never admit it openly, one has to believe coaches are receptive to any idea that helps them achieve a more level playing field in the recruiting process.