I realize that all the recent talk about conference realignment is enough to make your ears bleed from the mere mention of the whole thing. However, the likely hood of Texas A&M moving to the SEC seems to be a forgone conclusion these days, and suddenly the University of Louisville is being mentioned as a strong candidate to round out that league, should Oklahoma not choose to follow the Aggies if, and when, they make the leap. The more I hear about how disgruntled the people in College Station are with the Texas/ ESPN "Long Horn Network" love child, the more I think this thing is going to happen. Here are a few scenarios that I've had floating around in my brain about our future. Take them with a grain of salt because that's about all they're worth until something happens; but, it seems almost imminent at this point that something is going to happen. When it does, this game of conference musical chairs will once again be in full swing.
Scenario #1: Texas A&M stays exactly where they are and nothing changes,..... for now. I don't see this happening for many reasons but mainly because, as Eric Crawford points out here, the opportunity for both parties to reap major rewards is just too much to let slip away. Texas A&M has never liked being seen as the Longhorn's whipping boy; and, anyone who's ever read "The Junction Boys" (great book BTW) knows that they've felt that way since football became the only thing that anyone cared about in that state. Couple that with the fact that the SEC is the premiere College Football Conference in America (man that smarts) and the move looks like a no-brainer. From the stand point of the SEC, it's win-win. They make a huge splash by bringing in a name like Texas A&M, they increase their marketability by creating new rivalries that people will certainly want to see, and they get to tap into yet another football crazed television market (Houston) with a population of over 2 million people. Just to put that into perspective for you, the total populations of all the other cities with SEC Universities calling them home, combined, doesn't come to 2 million people. This move is going down like Fraizer.
Scenario #2: The Big East Survives and Louisville stays put. When this whole discussion started last year I was certain that there was no way this could happen. Now, with the addition of TCU and commissioner Marinatto basically telling ESPN to take their offer back to Bristol and shove it, I'm starting to think otherwise. One of the main reasons for this is that according to multiple sources, NBC is trying to get into the mix with the Big East. Why would that be important? Notre Dame, that's why. For years fans of Big East schools have complained about Notre Dame not playing football with them when they get to play every other sport under their umbrella. This has only been possible because of the sweet-sweet television deal that they have with NBC. If the Big East were to suddenly come under the tail feathers of NBC, they might be able to have their cake and eat it too. I don't think it would take a whole lot of maneuvering to get the people over at 30 Rock to convince the Irish that it just makes good sense for them to join, you know, since they're no longer going to be the only Saturday game on the network anyway.
If that happens, then the Big East could easily absorb as many Big 12 left overs like Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Missouri as they wanted to; thus, growing the football membership to whatever they wanted, or needed it to be for survival. If Notre Dame didn't join, I still believe that the Big East could survive by adding football playing schools left over from the Big 12. But what about Basketball scheduling you say? Don't kid yourself. Football is the engine driving this thing because it is the money maker, and when the stuff starts to hit the fan, it'll be a shoot first and ask questions later mentality from those who want to save this league.
Scenerio #3: Texas A&M makes the jump and one of the following two things happens. (1) Oklahoma decides not to go with them. (2) Oklahoma goes with them and the SEC decides to add two more teams to make 16. If either one of these things happen then the Big East could be in trouble and the University of Louisville could find themselves in a new home. If Oklahoma decides not to ride off into the sunset with the Aggies, then Louisville could find itself at the top of the SEC hit list for a possible school to round out the league. Louisville is a big money maker that does well in all sports. The school, and Tom Jurich, are definitely not afraid of spending money to expand, even in the midst of a recession, Charlie Strong, and let's face it folks,... is Clemson or Oklahoma State really going to add more than Louisville? I think not.
Scenario #4: The other possibility is that Oklahoma only goes to the SEC if they take on more of their brethren from the Big 12 fall out like Oklahoma State and Kansas; or, that my estimation of the Floyd Street Athletic Department is vastly overrated (Shhhha-Right). If this happens and the SEC grows to 16 teams in the 15 minutes that Mike Slive says it would take them to do so, then the Big East would be all but done for in my opinion. I just can't see the Big-10, PAC-12, or ACC sitting idly by while the SEC steps on the expansion gas peddle, turning themselves into an even more marketable commodity, while they all sit at the light in neutral. The ACC and Big-10 would surely come after the the remaining football playing schools in the Big East with sexy television markets like New York (Syracuse and Rutgers), Pittsburgh, and the greater New England area (UConn). These would be the schools most likely to end up in the ACC for geographical reasons. That would probably leave the PAC-12 adding Boise State, TCU, Oklahoma State, and someone else to get to 16 football playing schools.
The bottom line for Louisville is this, we've come a long way since Conference USA and I don't see any scenario where we don't end up staying in a BCS league. The Big East has been great for Basketball but, I honestly think this program could thrive on the hardwood in any BCS league. Even when the Big East was at their football height a few years ago, and we were on top, no one was giving us the respect we deserved in terms of whether or not we should be in the discussion for a National Championship. Whatever happens with the realignment, I think the University of Louisville will be better off for it.