The rudderless ship of conference expansion

Funny how quickly optimism turns to pessimism in the never ending saga of conference expansion and realignment. A positive note for the University of Louisville one minute is replaced seconds later by a frustratingly negative report from the same source.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, interminable.

A media friend was certain the dominoes were finally going to start falling UofL’s way on Monday, possibly leading to inclusion in the Big 12. Bubbling with confidence, putting his credibility on the line so certain he was. He has excellent sources, no doubt about it, but the SEC presidents failed to act on Missouri. And on it goes …

  • A conference commissioner saying one thing, college presidents in his conference saying completely the opposite.
  • Leading members of a conference seemingly adamantly opposed to admitting a certain school but that school being the first one to be invited.
  • A conference making overtures to a major university that is expressing interest. Then the school and the conference acting as if they may or may not be interested in tying the knot.
  • School administrators admitting they’re consulting with TV networks for guidance on which schools to admit or block for conference membership. Such scholars they are.
  • An athletic program investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new facilities, with a great tradition in basketball and recent success in football and non-revenue sports, being overlooked for a smaller school with limited success in football and in a redundant market.
  • State schools selfishly overlooking the welfare of their states, blocking other schools in the state from conferences.
  • Schools averaging 50,000 to 60,000 fans at football games wondering whether they will be left out in the cold.

Rarely have the preferences of so many fans/customers been so blatantly ignored in the atmosphere that prevails in the changing college conference landscape. There are few consistencies in the decision making process, no rules or guidelines, no ways of measuring progress. There is, however, more than enough petty thinking, jealousy, callousness, and paranoia to go around.

Big boys with their toys, pulling the strings, racking in millions for some, sowing seeds of disappointment and inequity for others, with little visible sense of purpose or direction.

Texas persuaded or outvoted on TCU, or neither?

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The least shall be first.

So much for Texas being deadset against TCU joining the Big 12 Conference. Seems to be the trend in conference expansion,  the parties doing exactly the opposite of the signals they’ve been sending.

TCU is in. Either Texas changed its mind, or it was outvoted on conference expansion/realignment.

The next big foregone conclusion was that Texas didn’t want to expand beyond 10 members.

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Pitino not so anonymous

No one says a word.

Everyone at the University of Louisville is mum, tight-lipped, non-verbal, incommunicado on the issue of UofL’s chances of getting into the Big 12 Conference expansion/realignment.

Everyone has been sworn to silence. Even if they don’t know anything, which they don’t.

Everyone that is except Rick Pitino who has become everyone’s nightmare, the proverbial loose cannon. Out there by himself, crusading for the preservation of the Big East.

On a day when the Big 12 appeared to be near reaching consensus, we get word that T. Boone Pickens is still not through tinkering with the process.

And Rick Pitino is still out there, turning out still another blog in defense of the Big East.

We suspect Pitino is using his good friend, Andy Katz at ESPN, to broadcast his message nationally, creating doubt, planting seeds of disunity, seeking to derail the process. In his latest blog Katz reports:

BYU, TCU and Louisville have all been mentioned as possibilities to join the Big 12. But Louisville, a source told ESPN.com, is interested in keeping Big East together with service academies to fill void left by Pitt and Syracuse, who are heading to the ACC. 

We also suspect that Katz wrote his piece primarily to provide a platform in support of Pitino’s position because it certainly didn’t contain any news.

You may win the battle, Rick, but you’ll lose the war. You’re on the wrong side of this issue.

A week to be remembered

Another Monday, more conference expansion, possible realignments.

Seems like just yesterday the University of Louisville was joining the Big East Conference. Remember the celebration, hundreds of people gathering to hear Mike Tranghese’s official welcoming lines. Heady stuff back then. U of  L finally arriving into a BCS conference.

Proud, excited, we were, finally getting an opportunity to prove ourselves. The days of the KIAC, the Missouri Valley Conference, the Metro Conference, and Conference USA behind us. Always successful, indispensable to the success of whatever the conference.

Now here we are again waiting to see if Louisville will be invited to join the Big 12 Conference. Plenty of stiff competition out there. Schools with sterling football success and tradition. Schools with good reputations, doing invaluable work in the classroom and their communities.

The extra that U of L brings is being one of the most profitable basketball programs in the nation. Not that that matters when football is king. Just ask Kansas. The $238 million KFC Yum! Center is a trinket compared to all the football TV money up for grabs.

Thanks to Howard Schnellenberger for the crazy notion of actually building a football stadium. Thanks to the work that Bill Olson, Malcolm Chancey and John Shumaker did in getting Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium constructed. Thanks to Tom Jurich and Jim Ransey for getting U of L in the Big East, and for Tom’s courage, foresight and dedication in expanding the stadium to 55,000 seats … those further expansion plans in his back pocket

Thanks to Papa John’s for his $15 million naming and $10 million more for the expansion, the $3 million from Brown & Williamson, the Kiel brothers, UPS, the other corporate sponsors and all the fans who dug deep. Thanks to Bobby Petrino who, during his four seasons, raised the quality of Louisville football to unprecedented levels, giving us a taste of what could be in football.

The exhaustive efforts of many people, community and business leaders and fans recognizing the need to invest in football. They are why we are able to be in this position, awaiting the word, yea or nay.

Oklahoma’s David Boren not encouraging

Difficult to accept, but the University of Louisville’s conference future may lie in the hands of one David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma.

Boren, oddly enough, is one of the advocates of increasing the Big 12’s conference membership to 12 programs by adding three schools. But in the same breath he adds, “If we were to rush out and get less than top flight members I think that would be a mistake.”

If we are to take him literally, that means that Boren is less than enamored with some of the schools among the leading candidates, which include Brigham Young, TCU, Air Force, Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati. The followers of the schools not selected will justifiably be offended by Boren’s ill-timed and badly-phrased declaration.

Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and three-term U.S. Senator, is used to having his way. A recent exception was the failed effort to get OU and Oklahoma State into the PAC 12 conference. He was president at OU when former U of L football coach Howard Schnellenberger resigned after his first season.

He told John Hoover of the Tulsa World that he prefers BYU, TCU or Air Force to get to 10, or all three for 12.  We are left to assume that Boren lumps U of L, WVU and Cincinnati among the less than “top flight.”