Another week, another change to the Atlantic Coast Conference dance card. After founding member Maryland recently two-stepped its way to the Big Ten, the ACC once again sashayed over to the Big East for its latest addition, announcing on Wednesday that basketball-heavyweight Louisville would becomes the conference's 14th member. The Cardinals, coached on the hoops side by Rick Pitino, are the seventh program to bail on the once-mighty Big East conference in the last 18 months and the seventh to Big East school to joint the ACC since 2003-04.
Louisville reportedly beat out Connecticut and Cincinnati in the race to fill Maryland's vacated - and still warm - slot. However, don't think for a second the game of conference realignment musical chairs is over. The Big Ten, Southeastern Conference and Big 12 are all reportedly on the hunt for more schools, looking to swell its membership to 16 because this is how things are done these days. Super, gigantic, mega conferences or bust, so the mantra appears.
Various reports have the Big Ten eying other ACC schools including North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia. In his attempt to tamp down any speculation, Virginia's Athletic Director Craig Littlepage issued a statement Tuesday night before the ACC school President's voted on the latest round of expansion.
"During the past week there have been numerous reports and rumors linking the University of Virginia to interest in membership in other athletic conferences,' Littlepage said. "Due to the recent changes that have taken place with conference realignment around the nation, I think it is important for us to put an end to this speculation as it relates to UVa.
"The University of Virginia is a proud member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Neither representatives of the athletics department, nor President Teresa Sullivan, has received invitations to nor sought membership in other conferences. The ACC's commitment to its members and their student-athletes is the finest in the country. We look forward to continuing this relationship far into the future. Our goal is to continue supporting the ACC and its initiatives for long-term success.
"I have expressed this stance to ACC Commissioner John Swofford, and I want to take this opportunity to express that same commitment to our alumni, fans, supporters, student-athletes and coaches. We firmly stand behind the Atlantic Coast Conference."
North Carolina also made similar claims this week of wanting to stick with the ACC. We'll see about that. In the meantime, the ACC is suing Maryland following last week's conference changing announcement. Guess there are $50 million reasons why we knew this was coming. Getting Virginia and any other program thinking about jumping ship attention's, also a factor.
Back to Louisville. Considering the program's national championship hoops history and current Final Four contender status under Pitino, the swap with Maryland is hardly a downgrade (should Pitino return to his vagabond coaching roots and bail in the near future, and Mark Turgeon keep recruiting like his life depends on it, then we might have to revisit the exchange rate).
Obviously that's not the case with the television markets. Losing the Washington-Baltimore region is going to sting for the ACC, but Louisville represented the best of the remaining options (if Jim Calhoun remained in coaching perhaps Connecticut could have made such a claim). As for the football, kind of eh on both sides, though Louisville figures to have a greater chance for success in the ACC then Maryland will in the Big Ten.
Since 2003-04, seven schools have left the Big East for the ACC; Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame (football only) and now, Louisville. Considering the final four names on that list remain in the Big East for now, the conference will have its own Big East-ACC challenge on an almost nightly basis. So, there's that.
Speaking of the Big East, the conference this week announced Tulane's addition as a full-time member with East Carolina joining for football only. Good luck with that.