Five-star defensive end Jason Hatcher committed to USC Friday night at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Louisville.
The announcement was an expected one, but still a blow for a Cardinal staff which had made keeping top local talent home in 2013.
Hatcher, who is rated as the No. 3 defensive end in the country by Rivals.com, chose the Trojans over U of L and Tennessee. Though he said it didn't play a major role in his decision, Hatcher admitted that concern over Louisville's affiliation with the Big East was a factor.
"That wasn't the main reason," Hatcher said. "I'm not going to say it was a big reason, because I believe you can have success at any school at any conference. But the Big East, that was kind of a small concern, being that after the next couple of years they might not even be a BCS contender."
Even though it's still more likely than not that Hatcher ends up somewhere other than Louisville, don't think that this announcement is the end all, be all as far as his recruitment is concerned.
"When we were on the phone, Coach Hurtt was like, 'I understand, we always thought you would go somewhere because you didn't want to stay home,'" Hatcher said. "But he said that the recruitment wasn't over, and it was a long time till February (and national signing day).
As I said earlier this week, this is cause for concern, but not cause for over-the-top panic. Hatcher would have committed to USC on Friday even if Louisville was a member of the SEC. Still, I don't think there's any doubt that U of L's situation - one which has been made clear to potential signees by the staff in recent weeks - is starting to become a major disadvantage on the recruiting trail.
These next five months couldn't be more important for Louisville football. On the field and off it.