By Pk Bartley
On Tuesday, the Big East Conference extended an invitation to the Universityof Louisville to join the conference in all sports. U of L immediatelyaccepted the Big East’s invitation. The Big East also invited four otherschools to join from Conference USA. They are the University of Cincinnati,DePaul University, Marquette University, and the University of SouthFlorida.
Joining the Big East benefits all U of L athletics, but the move benefitsthe football program the most. The Cards will now have a legitimate shot atmaking it to a BCS bowl game and an outside shot at making it to thenational championship game.
“What it does for us is it puts us in a different pool for our recruiting,”said U of L head football coach Bobby Petrino. “We can go out and recruitthose young men that have a desire to compete for a national championship.I know that this league is something that will be great for us as a footballprogram.” Petrino also said that joining the Big East will allow U of L todo more recruiting in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
With this new Big East affiliation, Louisville may try to expand Papa John’sCardinal Stadium if the demand is there. “We want to explore the opportunity to addon to the football stadium,” said U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich. “Wewant to see how our fan base reacts to this. I would like to look at amoderate expansion on the east side. We’d like to look at adding somesuites because they are so popular I think they would be sold out in about30 minutes. We could get our stadium to a 60,000 seat stadium, with maybe50 or more skyboxes and maybe five to seven thousand specialty seats. Thatwould be a wonderful thing for all of us.”
The move will also help the men’s and women’s basketball teams. “In men’sbasketball, now we have the opportunity to play in maybe the deepest, mosttalented conference in the history of college basketball,” said U of Lhead coach Rick Pitino. It’s a bold statement from Pitino butwhen looking at the Big East Conference for men’s basketball, none of theother top conferences will be able to compete with such a rich basketballtradition. Such top teams are the defending national champions (SyracuseOrangemen), this year’s preseason number one (University of ConnecticutHuskies) and the traditional powers of Georgetown, St. John’s, and NotreDame. Also added to this mix are the five schools from C-USA.
The men’s and women’s basketball leagues will be made up of 16 teams split upinto two divisions which have yet to be decided. With the new teams joiningthe conference, the Big East postseason tournament held every year in NewYork City’s Madison Square Gardens will be the best conference tournamentyear in and year out. As for the women, the Big East will be a big step upin competition as the women’s defending national champions the UCONN Huskiescome from the Big East as well. Also with national powers such as NotreDame and Rutgers University, U of L will be able to fill Freedom Hall tocompacity when these teams come into town.
The future for U of L and the entire Big East looks to be a bright one. Uof L will be able to compete for Big East titles in all sports includingnon-revenue sports such as soccer, men and women’s tennis, and fieldhockey. The Big East as a whole will be one of the best conferences in thenation and U of L will be able to compete for national championships inpractically every sport.