Louisville is latest Big East defector to ACC
In the increasingly dysfunctional family of college athletic associations, Louisville has announced its intention to run away from its home in the Big East Conference and resettle in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC Tuesday said it will take in Louisville as a straight-up replacement in the league's Atlantic Division for Maryland, which is headed to the soon-to-be 14-member Big Ten. The ACC, by 2015, will have adopted seven Big East schools (counting Notre Dame as a quasi-football member) since 2004.
Notre Dame's ACC arrangement, announced in September, is for full membership in all sports except football and hockey, but it includes an agreement to play five ACC teams in football annually. "What the ACC needed most," said Holden Thorp, chairman of the conference council of presidents, "was to add the most exciting sports program we could." Thorp, the University of North Carolina chancellor, is leaving his job in the spring after a tenure marred by several athletics-related scandals over the past two years.
Louisville's president, James Ramsey, has ACC ties and had campaigned for the move. Never long for any league affiliation, Louisville has bounced through the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic, Ohio Valley, Missouri Valley, Metro and Conference USA before going to the Big East in 2005.
A traditional basketball power with expanding football plans, Louisville reportedly will have the largest athletic budget in the ACC, while the Big East has been almost totally reshaped by recent conference shuffling.
By 2015, the Big East expects nine new members -- Houston, SMU, Central Florida, Memphis, Boise State, San Diego State, Tulane, East Carolina and Navy -- and league commissioner Mike Aresco released a statement Wednesday insisting that the Big East "has become a truly national conference."
Aresco insisted that "basketball schools, like Providence College, St. John's and Georgetown, are united in their support of this new football model."
His statement wished Louisville well, saying the Big East "has anticipated the continuing realignment that is reshaping college athletics and has already made important additions as part of our vision for the future."
Still, the instability in conference ties is such that Connecticut and Cincinnati also were said to be looking for an escape from the Big East -- and shut out of the ACC by the Louisville move. And, amid questions from alumni and fans, both North Carolina and Virginia released statements swearing to remain with the ACC.
Originally founded in 1979 to sell top basketball teams to major Eastern TV markets, the Big East was an early leader in expansion, adding Miami, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Temple in 1991.
By 2015, all of those except Temple will be gone, as well as charter member Syracuse and 1982 addition Pitt, both joining the ACC, as well as Louisville, which was one of five schools added by the Big East in '05.