The news came down Wednesday that the ACC will add Louisville to its roster beginning in 2014. In essence, the move uses Louisville to replace ACC charter member Maryland, which will depart that same year for the Big Ten.
It's the latest round in a game of big-conference musical bleachers that has seen many schools jump from one affiliation to the next. The ACC is just one participant. However, it appears to be the only participant actively seeking to rid itself of that pesky cash cow that is college football. Rather, it's taking a whole big mess of chips and placing them squarely on the charity stripe.
But back to the gridiron. At a glance, Louisville football is a post route ahead of Maryland. And at 10-2 overall this year (compared to 4-8 for the Terps, which ended the season with a converted linebacker under center) and headed for a BCS bowl game, that's tough to argue against.
But wait. Delve a little deeper and you see that Louisville is precisely 0-0 this year against Top-25 opponents. I'm no Kirk Herbstreit, but that would appear to possibly speak to a shortage of high-level competition. Maybe that's why they're not in the Top 25 in either poll.
In the three years prior to this one, Louisville went a cumulative 18-20 with a 1-1 bowl record. On the other hand, Maryland put up a 13-24 with a 1-0 bowl record.
So, yes, Louisville is an immediate upgrade in football (and basketball, too, for the record). And I tip my cap to the Cardinals for a great season behind star Teddy Bridgewater. They deserve the success they've received. But it's not like the ACC just added Alabama.
I didn't come here today to knock the Cardinals, though. No, this is about the flawed foresight of the ACC brain trust. In 2004 and 2005, they added Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College, presumably in the hopes of becoming a more balanced sports conference. It didn't happen that way; if anything, the ACC dragged those schools down, rather than the other way around.
Now, with the addition of Louisville along with the previous acceptance of basketball schools Pitt and Syracuse, the ACC seems to have abandoned any hope of competing on the national football stage. Is that smart? Rolling over—or at least taking the quicker fix—on the biggest revenue sport in college athletics? I don't think so.
What's that you say? The ACC added Notre Dame, too? The top-ranked team in the country? Sure did. But wait. The ACC didn't make them join for football. Oh.
Who could the ACC have added instead? It's still a lustrous sports brand, and as such many schools would have surely jumped at the chance for inclusion.
Take the University of Central Florida, the nation's second-largest university and one based in the big-and-getting-bigger Orlando market. That fits very nicely with the ACC's core geography. The Knights are 9-3 this year in Conference USA and 24-15 over the past three years. They're also 1-1 in bowl appearances. That win? A 6-3 triumph over Georgia in the 2010 Liberty Bowl.
But despite its 45,000-seat stadium and top-20 media market home base, UCF just doesn't have the basketball cachet, does it? Sorry, Knights. Sounds like you'll have to wait for a conference looking a little further ahead than Selection Sunday.
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