Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
According to WDRB's Eric Crawford and the Courier Journal's Tim Sullivan, University of Louisville’s athletic director Tom Jurich might be considering the possibility of adding one or more sports to the school's varsity roster. At present, Louisville has more than 750 student-athletes competing in 23 varsity sports (10 men's and 13 women's).
So what sports could Louisville be potentially looking to add? The two most obvious choices would be the the two ACC sponsored sports in which UofL does not compete at the varsity level: men's wrestling and men's lacrosse. Following the departure of Maryland and the additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse, the ACC will have five members competing in men's lacrosse and six members competing in wrestling. Given the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation to drop Wrestling from the Olympics and the fact that Louisville already has a 1,000 seat lacrosse-only stadium on campus, I think it is likely that men's Lacrosse would be the targeted addition.
From the university's end, joining the ACC for men's lacrosse would be a great move. Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing team sports in the United States and event attendance reflects the trend. The NCAA men's lacrosse championship game has drawn between 30-48,000 fans since 2003, ranking it behind only the men's basketball championship game and the BCS championship game in terms of attendance. Not only is the sport growing in popularity, but Louisville would have the opportunity to join the nation's strongest lacrosse conference. Since 2000, ACC or future ACC teams have appeared in the NCAA lacrosse championship game 12 times. Bringing perennial top-20 teams and national title contenders (Cuse, Duke and UVa) to Louisville would definitely provide some exciting match-ups for fans and create more exposure for the university and the city. Plus, UofL already has the infrastructure in place with its on-campus lacrosse stadium.
From the ACC's end, the move would also be welcomed. The ACC currently has 4 men’s lacrosse teams (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke) and will have 5 teams participating in 2014 (lose Maryland but gain Syracuse and Notre Dame). At five members, the ACC will fall just short of NCAA Tournament automatic-qualifier status. If Louisville joined the conference, it would give the ACC the six team it requires to snag an auto-bid to the NCAAs. Given the strength of the conference already, it's not like the league actually needs the automatic invitation for its teams to make the tournament. However, having an auto-bid would give the conference championship an actual tangible value instead of serving solely as an RPI-booster. That makes the move a win-win situation in my book.
With all of that said, it may not be as simple as just adding men's lacrosse. Due to Title IX requirements, Louisville may also be required to sponsor a new women's sport to maintain gender equity. Complicating things further is the fact that Louisville already competes in all of the women’s sports currently sponsored by the ACC. One potential solution to this issue might be to sponsor women's gymnastics.
NCAA bylaws state that at least four institutions must sponsor gymnastics in order for a conference to hold a conference championship event. Pittsburgh, North Carolina, and North Carolina St currently sponsor women's gymnastics and UofL could give the ACC the required fourth team. However, that still leaves the question of where a women's gymnastics team might call home?