Conference expansion and re-alignment are back in the world of college athletics. And with re-alignment come questions. For example, was the Big 12 caught asleep at the wheel with regards to Louisville? Did the Big 12 wait too long before extending the Cardinals an invitation?
I don’t pretend to know, but these are questions worth asking.
It may be that new commissioner Bob Bowslby and others in the Big 12 had no interest in Louisville, but I would doubt that.
It may also be that the Big 12 has it eyes on other prizes, bigger prizes, than the Cardinals. But, I am not sure there are many bigger prizes out there.
Ever since West Virginia joined the Big 12, there has been speculation that Louisville would not be far behind. Louisville would have provided a regional opponent for WVU and would have been a good geographic bridge between our state and the rest of the conference.
Louisville also has one of the best overall athletic programs in the country. The measuring stick for overall excellence is athletics are the Learfield Cup Standings. In 2011-12, Louisville finished 36th overall, ahead of West Virginia who was 44th.
Lousville is better than many realize in most of the Olympic sports and they have a bigger athletic budget than the rest of the current ACC schools. Football would have been about like West Virginia in the Big 12, but the men’s basketball program would have joined Kansas as the best national hoops brand in the league. They have excellent facilities, possibly the nicest basketball arena in the country, and a passionate fan base.
Now that the conference expansion floodgates are opening again, Louisville became an attractive target and the ACC struck first.
The ACC really should be thrilled. Replacing Maryland with Louisville is an up-grade on the field and on the court.
Did the ACC beat the Big 12 to the punch? Will the Big 12 expand and if so, which direction will they go? Will they look to BYU? Will they try to poach someone from an existing league such as Florida State or Clemson? Will they stay at 10 schools? No one said bigger is better. What if a Kansas or a Texas leaves someday? Stranger things have happened.
It may be that by staying at 10 schools, the Big 12 has a better handle on conference re-alignment than any of the other conferences. But, I must admit, it doesn’t feel that way.