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.

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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.

14 thoughts on “Where Louisville fits in conference realignment”
  1. The following rankings come from US News and World Report for 2012.

    UofL fairs quite well for Medical Research in the SEC.

    School Name Medical Research
    Vanderbilt 15
    Alabama 30 Technically at UAB, but I will give it to them.
    Florida 45
    South Carolina 60
    Technically, the Medical College of South Carolina, but I will count it for USC.
    Kentucky 60
    Georgia 71
    Technically, the Medical College of Georgia, but UGA is a partner school.
    Louisville 75
    This medical school actually belongs to UofL.
    Tennessee 78
    Arkansas 84
    Ole Miss Unranked
    LSU Unranked
    Auburn NA
    Miss State NA

    School Name UnderGrad
    Vanderbilt 17
    Florida 53
    Georgia 56
    Alabama 79
    Auburn 85
    Tennessee 104
    South Carolina 111
    LSU 124
    Kentucky 129
    Arkansas 132
    Ole Miss 143
    Louisville 164 (Up 10 spots this year)
    Miss State Unranked <200

    I will be honest, undergraduate ratings could be a bit higher.

    School Name Law
    Vanderbilt 16
    Georgia 35
    Alabama 35
    Florida 47
    Tennessee 56
    Kentucky 71
    LSU 84
    Arkansas 84
    Louisville 100
    South Carolina 104
    Ole Miss 107
    Auburn NA
    Miss State NA

    Law school is not at the bottom either.

    I would keep going, but I think you get the point. While UofL is not among the academic elite of the SEC conference, UofL is not a bid fit academically for the SEC either.

    With that said, I hope we go to the Big 12.

  2. The UofL med school had the largest percentage increase in NIH funding over the last decade at 272%.

    Number of Fulbright scholars produced by UofL in 2011, 14. Number of SEC schools that produced more than 10 Fulbrights, 0. Yeap, poor, old, academically challenged Louisville beat Vandy, and the much larger schools of Florida and Georgia in Fulbrights produced.

  3. UofL’s academic portfolio isn’t that great. For instance, UofL Med School ranks 75 of 130 in NIH funding at $35 M. The Cincinnati gets 2x the funding of UofL (this is without UC’s dept of pediatrics which gets an additional $100M), Pitt gets 10X the amount of UofL. US News ranks UofL behind many big east schools. They do not have the academic chops for the SEC. West Virginia and UofL are very similar academically, so I doubt that the SEC would take UofL if it rejected WVU.

    1. So academics is measured by funding? I thought academics had to do with grades and scholars produced. I guess thats why I’m just a redneck.

      But if we are going to talk money, you would think that all the conferences would be willing to look a UofL just to get a look at their business model for its athletic program.

    2. The UofL med school had the largest percentage increase in NIH funding over the last decade at 272%.

      Number of Fulbright scholars produced by UofL in 2011, 14. Number of SEC schools that produced more than 10 Fulbrights, 0. Yeap, academically challenged Louisville beat Vandy, and the much larger schools of Florida and Georgia, in Fulbrights produced. Have not seen the final 2012 rankings yet, but they look like a repeat of last year.

    3. Since 1999, U of L has made the largest gains of any university in National Institutes of Health research ranking, with its NIH funding increasing 277 percent and its rank increasing 30 places.[10] As of 2006 among public U.S. universities, the melanoma clinic ranks third, the neurology research program fourth, and the spinal cord research program 10th in NIH funding.

  4. Missouri was just offered SEC membership, so it is Missouri and Texas A&m to the SEC. A side note, West Virginia’s apllication has been rejected by both the SEC and ACC. No word on Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State yet. So our new team mates appear to be:

    West Virginia
    South Florida
    Iowa State
    Kansas State
    To be determined

  5. In Jurich We Trust. Let’s hope this trust is centered around a non-stop barrage to gain admission to the SEC. It’s the only scenario that makes sense. Forget this nonsense about major television and media markets. In this age of the internet and 1000’s of cable and dish television doesn’t fly. And Starksville, Oxford, Athens and Gainesville aren’t exactly bustling metro areas.

    Get busy planting shrubs around the Papa John’s Football field, K.C. Skull. They like that in the SEC.

  6. I agree that there may still be a chance with the SEC because of standards of excellence that Jurich has set and achieved in sports other than football and basketball. True, TV markets are what all confernces are primarily interested in, but you may have hit the nail on the head with the Jurich-Slive connection.
    Remember the naysayers who guaranteed that TJ would never land Pitino?….stay tuned!

  7. You make some interesting points, the academic discussion in particular. Your conclusion appears on target, maybe with a tweak or two. It could wind-up being fun!

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