ACC presidents voted in an early-morning conference call today to add the University of Louisville to replace Maryland and bring the conference back up to 14 teams.
The addition of the Cardinals, who will leave the Big East for the ACC, is interesting on many levels. Perusing this morning’s articles:
The move is seen as a proactive one to snatch Louisville before another conference (the Big 12) removes them from the table. Per SI.com, UConn, USF, Cincinnati and Navy were also interested, but other conferences were not courting those schools, so they will be available for future expansion, if the ACC decides it’s necessary.
Louisville’s athletic budget may surprise you. Per ESPN.com, Louisville had a 2011-12 athletic budget of $84.4 million, higher than any member of the ACC (Florida State led the ACC with an $81.4 million budget). According to the ESPN article:
Louisville also has managed to maintain one of the nation’s top athletic budgets, despite receiving only $3.2 million annually from the Big East’s current media rights deal.
Once Louisville is in the ACC, and their media rights payout rises to $14 million and eventually to $17 million or more, the Cardinals’ athletic revenue will approach $100 million.
Louisville’s academics are ranked far below the rest of the ACC. According to the ACC Sports Journal, US News and World Report ranks Louisville’s academics #160, well below any current ACC member, and only five spots above West Virginia, which was never seriously considered for ACC membership (before joining the Big 12), due at least in part to academic considerations. Here are the ACC schools’ academic rankings, from the ACCSports.com article:
USN&WR Academic Rankings of ACC Schools
No. 8 Duke
No. 17 Notre Dame (arriving from Big East)
No. 24 Virginia
No. 27 Wake Forest
No. 30 North Carolina
No. 31 Boston College
No. 36 Georgia Tech
No. 44 Miami
No. 58 Maryland (leaving for Big Ten)
No. 58 Pittsburgh (arriving from Big East)
No. 58 Syracuse (arriving from Big East)
No. 68 Clemson
No. 72 Virginia Tech
No. 97 Florida State
No.106 N.C. State
No. 160 Louisville
UConn, by contrast, has an academic ranking of #63. So the argument that a university must be a good academic fit before being invited to the ACC is now off the table and can be ignored. It’s all about survival and growth of the conference at this point.
Louisville’s athletics are very well-rounded. From the ESPN article:
Over the last six years, Louisville is the nation’s only school that has reached both the men’s and women’s basketball Final Four, a BCS bowl game, the College World Series and the Men’s Soccer College Cup.
There’s no question that athletically, Louisville is a good addition to the conference, perhaps the best available. But although the ACC has added an athletics program that is more impressive than Maryland’s was, and which is in much better financial shape than the Terps athletic department, the conference landscape is shifting rapidly. At this point, there’s no telling when the game of musical chairs is going to stop, and the stakes are higher than ever.