The conference realignment train is once again rolling, and if you can believe it, the stakes are even higher for Louisville than they were a year ago.
Beginning on Thanksgiving night, Louisville fans will see a seven-day stretch that will include its second-ranked men's basketball team attempting to win perhaps the most loaded early season college hoops tournament ever, and its football team trying to win its last two regular season games and a spot in the BCS.
In an ideal world, we'd all be able to focus squarely on that seven-day stretch and only that seven-day stretch. Alas, this has once again become a conference realignment world, which is about the furthest thing possible from ideal.
The false reports, the constant bickering, the "heating up" stories; they've all started again and probably aren't going away anytime soon. As much as everyone would like to ignore it all, there's too much at stake to play (completely) ignorant here, so let's breakdown the situation as it stands.
What do we know?
Maryland will officially announce that it is moving to the Big Ten during a 2:30 press conference this afternoon. Rutgers will soon make the same announcement.
What happens next?
The moves leave the ACC with 13 football-playing members, and as a result the conference is now looking to add one more program.
CBS has already reported that Connecticut, Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati have been contacted by the ACC, but it is my understanding (INTERNET REPORT!) that UConn and U of L are the only two actual candidates.
When the news about Maryland and Rutgers first broke on Saturday, everyone's thought was that UConn was a near-lock. I'm told (INTERNET REPORT!), however, that there has been a pretty solid showing of support from some powerful folks for Louisville in the days since, and that U of L has become a player in this race. There's no question that Connecticut is still the favorite, but...at least there's a chance. It didn't seem like we'd be able to say that 48 hours ago.
Why Connecticut over Louisville?
I know, right? Ten Big East championships a season ago, the No. 2 basketball team in the country, a football program that (at the moment) appears to be in the best shape of any in the conference, superior facilities, superior coaches, superior fan support (we took 35,000 to the Orange Bowl, they took 3,500 to the Fiesta Bowl), the best athletic director in the country, and on and on and on.
UConn had a head start in this race because of its television market and academics. If you're looking for a visual representation of their relative importance, that would be: TELEVISION MARKET and academics.
U of L is getting a lot of support right now from higher-ups at other universities who recognize how successful the program has been in athletics across the board (you know, like actual games, and stuff) since it joined the Big East. Also, Louisville sports make a lot of money.
There's a very easy case to be made for why Louisville should be the ACC's 14th member, but in the end it's going to come down to convincing a handful of individuals whose interests and priorities aren't clear.
All we can do is wait around and remind ourselves that we have an AD doing everything he can to ensure that Louisville comes out of this thing in the best position possible.