Bigger than big, Louisville eyes another milestone at Clemson

Bobby Petrino Eyes 6

Clemson coming up.

At Death Valley.

Seating capacity 85,500.

Serious football competitor year in, year out.

What University of Louisville football fans have been waiting for for more years than anyone can remember. Another potential milestone in a decade during which milestones have acccumulated at a steady pace. A win at Death Valley would merit a special place in the archives.

Todd Grantham was defensive coordinator at Georgia a year ago when Clemson won 38-35 so he’s got a head start on planning. Big difference this year, he’s bringing the nation’s No. 1 defense this time around.

UofL’s offensive line will have all it can handle against Clemson’s front four, but every front four has been a serious challenge thus far. Couldn’t get much worse.

Despite those problems on offense, Bobby Petrino teams seem to find ways to score. This is the kind of game he lives for, the kind in which he seems to thrive.

The kind of opportunity Tom Jurich knew was inevitable when he rehired Petrino.

Bigger than big.

Saturday will be forever getting here.

Rags to riches as Louisville enters Atlantic Coast Conference

Forgive University of Louisville fans if they seem to be walking on air the next few weeks and months. No waking up, shaking their collective head and realizing it was all a dream. They’re living it. A new era in UofL athletics and academics begins Tuesday as the University is officially welcomed into the Atlantic Coast Conference.

To fully appreciate the significance of the move, one would have had to have followed Louisville for seven decades through the various conferences in which UofL has participated during one’s lifetime, seven conference affiliations during that span. Check that. Make it eight now — the ultimate conference, the ACC. Member institutions speak volumes about the quality of the conference — Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Miami. And, of course, Notre Dame in every sport except football.ACC-logo-with-Louisville-Cardinal-Bird

The premier destination for a program that has competed at the highest levels for decades despite tremendous obstacles, overcoming the stigma of mid-major status in struggling conferences, achieving national respect despite severe scheduling challenges.  Building for the future, investing in athletic facilities second to none, hoping, wishing, praying not to be left out when the final bell rings for conference realignment.

Some really dark days there for a while, more than five years, watching conferences expand and implode, prominent members leaving the Big East Conference, watching a once proud league steadily implode. There would be tantalizing, sometimes conflicting rumors of possible inclusion in the Big XII only to lose out to West Virginia in the end. Any chance of getting into the SEC expansion blocked by a rival university. The ACC said to be beyond UofL’s reach for geographic and academic reasons. Anxious UofL fans scouring the Internet daily dissecting dozens of rumors, parsing official statements, watching and waiting, trusting all the while in the abilities of Tom Jurich to prevail against sometimes overwhelming odds.

Being excluded would have been a crushing blow to fans for whom the University is like a second family. Missing out would surely mean being forever banished to the ranks of the also-rans, getting shut out in the recruiting wars, being relegated to second-rate football bowls, relying on past accomplishments with little odds of seriously being respected in the national polls. The situation was undeniably bleak until the Big 10 decided to expand again in November 2012, extending invitations to Rutgers and Maryland. The ACC needed to replace Maryland. At long last, the gods were smiling on UofL.

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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.