Column: U of L’s place in the NCAA conference shake-up

By on September 28, 2011

By Andrew Haddad–

College football is once again stealing the sports media spotlight. The most recent topic of discussion is the rampant, and seemingly never-ending, conference shakeup. First it was University of Colorado and University of Utah joining the Pac 10—now the Pac 12—then Nebraska jumped ship from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. Last week, news surfaced that Texas A&M University would leave the Big 12 for the SEC. This sent shockwaves around the college sports nation, and speculation quickly arose about who else would join A&M and give the SEC an even 14 teams.

However, talk didn’t stop at the number of teams. Rumors are flying around proclaiming the SEC might jump to a 16-team super conference. What is even more interesting is that one of those new teams rumored to join the SEC is our own very own Louisville Cardinals.

It seems preposterous, and granted right now it seems that the Cardinals are getting passed over in the ACC for teams like Syracuse University and University of Pittsburgh. Rumors are even hotter about the possibility that West Virginia University may be the team heading to the SEC instead of the Cardinals. Let’s not even mention the problem the University of Kentucky would have with Louisville now in the conference picture. Then there are University of Louisville President James Ramsey’s comments to WAVE News where he asserted, “We’re committed to the Big East. It has a great conference and has a great history.”

It just doesn’t seem to be a good fit looking at the situation head on, but there are glimmers of hope for those desiring to see the Cardinals make their way in to the SEC. One reason is Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich. Current SEC commissioner, Mike Silve, turns out to be the former commissioner of the infamous “Conference USA.” Ring a bell? It should as it is Louisville’s old conference, the one that Louisville brought national attention to while making a Final Four run back in 2004. How does this bode for Louisville? Excellent. Jurich is believed to have a good relationship with Silve, and given the fact that Silve has worked with, is familiar with and has had success with the Cardinals should do nothing but sweeten the idea that the two may be reunited again.

And really what is there not to like about Louisville? Louisville has over 50,000 supporters out on average for each home football game, has among the nicest college basketball arenas in the nation and has the most profitable basketball program in the nation. It seems the only thing that may deter the SEC from asking for Louisville’s hand is the TV market. The size is of market is of paramount importance. Granted Louisville is no comparison for the D.C. market, or any New England area when comparing total population, but we can say our fan following is much better than those schools in the more densely populated areas. That translates to more consistent showings at games and better travel turnout for bowls and conference tournaments. Louisville sports are all the city has as far as sports teams go, and the city has embraced that. Pittsburgh most definitely can’t say that about Pitt, that’s for sure.

While it’s still too early to definitively say anything about this grand illusion of a 16-team super conference, it seems that the writing is on the wall. The fallout would be tremendous. Just imagine getting to tailgate twice a year for the Kentucky game—that in itself makes it worthwhile. The best-case scenario you may wonder: Louisville joins conference and quickly everyone else in SEC realizes they had the wrong university from Kentucky. For now however, we must wait while eagerly anticipating the outcome of this prodigious conference jumble.

sports@louisvillecardinal.com

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