So where will the University of Louisville wind up when all the conference reshuffling and expansion is done?
Presently U of L appears to have been passed over by the ACC in favor of schools like Syracuse and Pittsburgh, maybe even UConn and Rutgers. West Virginia seems to have the inside track on an invitation to the SEC if the decibel level of the rumor mill has any credence.
Does anyone seriously doubt that U of L is not among the institutions that have submitted applications for membership into those conferences? We have no doubt that U of L has applied, no matter what Tom Jurich may say publicly. Louisville has earned the right for serious consideration, with all the physical improvements, athletic feats and academic achievements the school has made over the last decade or so.
Personally we believe U of L’s best shot still may be the SEC because of the relationship Tom Jurich developed with SEC Conference Commissioner Mike Slive who once held the same position in Conference USA. Slive is familiar with U of L and the support the school enjoys in this area. And we don’t think it was a coincidence that an anonymous source in the SEC told the Associated Press that “Louisville makes the most sense.”
A football program that attracted 50,500 fans per game last season, a basketball program consistently among the top five nationally in attendance, a brand new 22,000-seat arena that is the finest basketball facility in the country and the most profitable basketball in the nation, plus highly competitive and well attended non-revenue sports. ESPN sure seemed to like U of L football on Thursday nights a few years ago. What’s not to like?
The size of the TV market obviously plays a role. But U of L has a larger fan following than schools like Rutgers and UConn in more densely populated areas. We happen to believe there is a correlation between TV viewers and people who actually turn out for games. The fact that U of L shares the market with the University of Kentucky is no different from Vanderbilt fighting for attention with Tennessee fans.
Academics? The medical school has been a pioneer with its involvement in heart and organ transplants, a vaccine against a form of cervical cancer, and is currently deeply involved in bio hazard and stem cell research. U of L also has turned out 14 Fulbright Scholars during each of the last two academic years, ranking 23rd among U.S. universities in Fulbright Scholars this year, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education.
Other institutions can and are making similar claims in other areas, of course, and thus far our arguments seem to be falling on deaf ears. Even if the facts in favor or U of L’s inclusion into a more prestigious conference seem incontrovertible to us. We’re a more recent arrival to the major conference scene, and that’s probably not a good thing in an environment where long-standing stereotypes and depth of state support seem out of proportion in the decision making process.
The herd mentality of some rushing into the 16-team conferences doesn’t appear to have been fully embraced by all of the major entities. The Big Ten decided to stop at 12, for example. Expansion could be a huge mistake for some, leading to painful contractions within a decade. How would that feel, being asked to leave?
More than likely, the Louisville Cardinals will wind up in a mix of the old Big East and Big 12 conferences. Drop the Big East designation in the process. And it wouldn’t be a bad thing to be playing Kansas home and away in basketball annually.