By Rob Jones:
Conference realignment has reared it’s ugly head again this summer. This time it’s Notre Dame jumping to the ACC, joining the mass exodus of teams leaving the Big East for supposed greener ($$) pastures in other leagues. Most major college fans are safe in the conference carousal – their teams are already well established in traditional leagues. However, that is not the case for a supporter of the Louisville Cardinals.
One could argue that Louisville is the premier free agent in the world of college sports. The best available program left to take from the artist formerly known as the Big East. Success in both major and non-revenue sports, a rabid fanbase that travels and fills a 50,000+ seat stadium, and an outstanding athletic director that runs one of the most profitable departments in the country. Seems like a resume that should impress commissioners from leagues like the ACC and Big 12. Yet, the question still remains as to whether or not the Cards will be included at the “cool table” of major college football.
As angry as some Louisville fans (myself included) have been at Notre Dame for dumping a conference that basically rolled over for the school for years, the Irish move could be a blessing in disguise. With the move, the ACC instituted a $50 million buy-out for any schools trying to leave. That means the rumors of Florida State or Clemson going instead of Louisville can be put to rest. As it stands right now, the Big 12 has 10 teams and just signed a lucrative TV deal. One would assume the conference would want to add 2 more teams (and title game) by the time a 4-team playoff starts in 2014. If ACC teams are as off-limits as they appear at the moment, that increases Louisville’s chances of being one of the 2 selected exponentially.
The Big 12 is playing it very close to the vest right now. Their silence is going to increase the worry among fans. Conference realignment has caused doomsday scenarios to run rampant through fans’ (and administrators) minds since it’s inception. Will Louisville get stuck playing in C-USA 2.0 with no chance at playing for a title? Will Charlie Strong tolerate coaching in a B-level league? Will fringe fans continue to fill seats with teams like Temple & Central Florida coming to town?
Pushing the panic button isn’t necessary…yet. If Tom Jurich has proven anything in his tenure at Louisville, it’s that he will fight tooth-and-nail to put the Cards in the best possible situation. Even though it is hard to trust anyone in this mess – this has been the 5th “last move”– Louisville fans should trust that Jurich is working any channel he can to not be left out.
This shouldn’t interfere with what is shaping up to be a great football season and even better basketball season. Any ill effects from realignment madness won’t be seen for a few years. The news of Notre Dame leaving shouldn’t be seen as a detriment to the Cards’ future, but actually give a glimpse of hope. The worry is justified, but patience is more important when league’s have 2 more years to get everything ion line before the 4-team playoff begins.
My prediction a year ago was BYU & Louisville to the Big 12. The Notre Dame move makes that scenario the most likely – again – although I go back-and-forth whether that will actually happen every time another move is made that doesn’t include the red and black. The Cards are in conference purgatory right now.
The best way to forget about all of this (for the time being) would be to lay a whooping on a school from the conference that stole yet another program like a thief in the night.
North Carolina comes to town on Saturday. What conference are they from? The ACC.