Cardinal crunch

The University of Louisville soccer team doesn’t seem to able to catch a break this season.

Play in the opening round of Big East Tournament  at Cardinal Park begins Thursday at 7 p.m. That would be exactly the same time as the tip off for the UofL-Bellarmine basketball game at the KFC Yum! Center.

A couple of soccer games have bumped up against Louisville football games this season, starting either a couple of hours before or after games at Papa John’s. Guess who loses when that happens. Give up tailgating, not going to happen. And who has the energy to fight the traffic after football?

Go ahead, build the new soccer stadium.  People will come, but there will be a lot more of them without the  scheduling conflicts.

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Rick Pitino might want to call in a management consulting firm if the injury reports and academic questions continue as they have over the past decade. People like Peyton Siva, Mike Marra, Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware are difficult to replace. I’ll go ahead and ask: What goes on in those practices anyway?
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Another day passes and the University of Missouri has yet to announce that it is leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.  The university attorneys are earning a fortune delaying what should be a fairly simple process. Or maybe Missouri is having difficulty negotiating a reduction in the $20 million to $30 million exit fee?

The longer UM takes, the more difficult it becomes for West Virginia to officially leave the Big East and become a participating member of the Big 12.

Not hard to believe the Big 12 possibly chose West Virginia over UofL  because WVU promised to file the lawsuit to become available next season.  The rush to get out so quickly  could easily come back and haunt both partners — the Big 12 and West Virginia.

Pity the poor schedule makers for the Big East and Big 12 next season if Missouri is still hanging around and West Virginia is still trying to get in. You can bet WVU is out shopping with a sense of urgency for judges who aren’t sick of hearing about conference realignment.

Gotta admire Tom Jurich for not going the lawsuit route.

West Virginia thrives on offense, UofL on defense

Editor’s note: The writer has been on target this season and may know something.

by Paul Sykes

The scoreboard operator at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown has a full time job when West Virginia (6-2) takes the field for football. In eight games, the Mountaineers have put 309 points on the board this season and allowed opponents 209 points. Six times the WVU squad has scored over 30 points.

So what does this mean to a visiting UofL squad THAT prides itself on keeping opponent’s point totals to a bare minimum and producing just enough points to win? Louisville has allowed only 130 points in eight games while managing only 141.  UofL wants a game in which the scoreboard operator isn’t very busy.

Key to a win Saturday for UofL is slowing down the potent passing attack of quarterback Geno Smith and his favorite receivers Stedman Bailey (101.9 yards per game, 7 TD’s), Tavon Austin (86.4 yards per game, 3 TD’s), and Ivan McCartney (59.4 yards per game, 3 TD’s). Louisville has produced a rugged pass rush on opposing QB’s this season, collecting 23 sacks.

The Cards will also need to see the ongoing improvement of Teddy Bridgewater. Given the porous WVU secondary, that shouldn’t be a problem. Louisville also will need a big effort from the triad of running backs Dominique Brown, Vic Anderson and Jeremy Wright.

Look for Louisville to keep the Mountaineers under 30 points Saturday but fail to reach 30 themselves. We’ll call it 28-27 Cards…as Louisville ends the four game losing streak in Morgantown.

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.”

Between the Big 12 plot lines

More mixed messages on the University of Louisville’s odds of receiving an invite from the Big 12 via Orangebloods, the fan site the University of Texas uses to send out trial balloons.

  • TCU, a school Texas has heretofore adamantly opposed as a conference member, may be gaining in favor, especially with Texas.
  • BYU was the favorite, but the school is a bit cautious about getting involved with all the infighting in the conference.
  • No special consideration for Louisville, which is lumped together with West Virginia and Cincinnati in an outside group of contenders.
  • Texas wants to hold expansion to 10 members but other members would like to expand to 12 members to solidify the conference with more numbers.
  • The TV partners (ABC/ESPN and Fox) would be comfortable with TCU to continue paying out the money in their contracts with the league.

A happy ending to all this conference expansion/realignment drama remains a long shot at best.

Where Louisville fits in conference realignment

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.