Somewhere up there Peck Hickman and Frank Camp are clinking champagne glasses together with the late Owsley Brown Frazier and Bernie Traeger. Two former University of Louisville coaches who started from scratch a half century ago, along with two men who pumped millions into the program to make the highest expectations possible.

Not that the journey is over but a major milestone has been achieved. Louisville is now on a super highway, with no speed limits. UofL is in the club. THE CLUB.

Ladies and gentlemen, the University of Louisville is in the Atlantic Coast Conference and will begin competition in 2014. One more year in the Big East, a fond farewell tour. Thanks Big East, we will  have some wonderful memories of those days.

The constant shuffling over two years between message boards and blogs for any of glimmer of hope for U of L in endless, sometimes mindless, conference realignment drama is done.

The frustration of having to wait on the Big 12 Conference to make a move, a league using other schools as pawns, but stuck in neutral paralyzed by lack of creativity and initiative. Done.

The never-ending gloating from West Virginia fans about being chosen by the Big 12 a year ago is history. UofL got the invitation the Mountaineers coveted the most.

Long road getting here, UofL winding its way through a list of league affiliations since the 1940’s, including the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Missouri Valley Conference, Metro Conference, Conference USA and the Big East.

Quite a journey, with UofL consistently competitive in each conference, always aiming high.

Everyone agrees that the transformation of the campus under the leadership of Jim Ramsey and Tom Jurich has been nothing short of amazing.

Driving around the campus these days provides many reminders, from the new entrances on Cardinal Boulevard and Third Street to the redesigned Eastern Parkway and the restored Thinker, the campus has a totally different look and feel than when Ramsey arrived in 2002. But the changes go well beneath the surface,  with more than 68 students earning Fulbright Scholarships in that time, more than all Kentucky universities combined. His ultimate goal, backed by the state legislature, is make UofL a premiere research university, and he’s on track to make that happen.

Jurich, of course, was the man who got UofL into the Big East and was the driving force behind all the new athletic facilties, ranging from an indoor football pratice facility to the ultra exceptional KFC Yum! Center. He also has recruited a cadre of top flight coaches (with one exception) and provided quality facilities, making UofL competitive in every sport.

Have they done enough to overcome the intransigence that existed for so many decades, overcoming a dearth of commuity leadership that all but ignored the vast potential that existed on Belknap Campus? The UofL football team playing a baseball stadium for 40 years, for gosh sakes, striving to keep its head above water. Back in the late seventies, Louisville barely making the 17,000 attendance-wise to stay classified as a Division 1A program.

Yes, Howard Schnellenberger had the vision of a new stadium, and Bill Olson and Malcolm Chancey made it happen. Jurich filled the place and expanded it while overcoming legislative footdragging, and beamed with pride with an average of attendance of more than 50,000 since completion.

“It may not be the biggest, but I want it to be the best,” he has said numerous times after embarking on new projects, a philosophy Jurich shares with this boss. If there was ever a question about what a good athletic program can do for a university, one need only to look at what Jurich has done at UofL.

The university has achieved a milestone that would have been unimaginable before Jim Ramsey and Tom Jurich arrived on campus.

Now look what they’ve gone and done.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

18 thoughts on “Suspense over, UofL headed to the ACC”
  1. You captured it all, Charlie! It feels so good to finally bask once-again in the bright sun-drenched ascending future of UofL!

  2. Great article, Charlie–and timely, too. These ACC guys can play some basketball, too–which was beginning to worry me. When it becomes available, how about a followup on the financial implications/TV contracts and all? Again–great writeup, great day for the Cards!

  3. If it isn’t the most important thing that has happened in the history of UofL Sports…it’s definitely in the top five.

    And, all over West Virginia this morning…the sound of Mountaineers kicking their stills and couches can be heard…

    1. Think about their team’s travel budgets compared to ours? Going that far west for baseball and the other “non-revenue” sports is really expensive. They may run out of couches to burn.

  4. Certainly helps the case for Charlie Strong to stay in Louisville. Should help recruiting as well. It will probably be harder to win any conference championships though. Duke, NC, Syracuse, Pitt, Louisvile. That will be some basketball league.

      1. One of my most vivid childhood memories of Louisville football was when Maryland came to town in the late 70’s. I believe they were the first ranked team to play in Fairgrounds Stadium. Huge crowd, electric atmosphere. A turning point in Louisville football. All these years later and Maryland again is involved in providing Louisville a new opportunity.

  5. Stunning. I expected more of the usual disappointment. This is the big time.

    Congrats to all those who made this happen.

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