If Louisville joins the ACC as the conference’s replacement for Maryland, who left for the Big 10 out of financial desperation, it will not only be a quick and sufficient band-aid, it will be an immense upgrade from every conceivable angle. There’s a reason you haven’t heard many ACC fan’s lamenting about Maryland’s exit, and it’s because they brought little to the table!
UConn is largely viewed as the front-runner to replace the Terrapins and academically they’d be a great fit. They are 63rd in the U.S. News Rankings of National Universities, placing them between new addition, Pittsburgh, and charter member, Clemson. Meanwhile, Louisville would be by far the worst ranked school in the ACC at 160, more than 50 slots worse than NC State or FSU. Louisville is in fact tied at 160 with Mississippi State. While this is a big hurdle, and the same one that made me hesitate to jump on West Virginia when they were available, there are more than enough reasons to select Louisville as the ACC’s 14th member.
Before digging into why Louisville is a better fit than UConn and an upgrade over Maryland, let me point out two assumptions I make. One, the ACC is unable to get Notre Dame to join as a full member. I think it goes without saying, getting them to join would be preferable, but they probably would not accept such an offer. Secondly, I assume that the ACC plans to get a 14th member. I would love to see them stay at 13, nix divisions, and pit the two best teams in the ACC Championship. I’m assuming that is not an option.
So here you have it:
9 Reasons Why Louisville Is a Better Fit Than UConn and an Upgrade Over Maryland For The Atlantic Coast Conference.
1. Football First: 80% of the dollars in the ACC’s TV contract come from football, not basketball. That makes football about four times more important than basketball. It also means that Clemson and FSU are the rightful drivers of the conference, not Duke and UNC.
David Wilkins, Chairman of Clemson’s Board of Trustees recently said:
“I’d say that Clemson is very excited about our football program right now and we’d like to see a team added that adds to the football prowess of the ACC, but that’s a decision for the presidents to make based on a lot of factors.”
Louisville is viewed as the superior football school compared to either UConn or Maryland. Not that Louisville isn’t also better in basketball, but here’s an opportunity to upgrade the competitiveness of the conference in the league’s most crucial sport. Seeing how the computer polls have bombed Clemson and FSU in the BCS rankings and how strength of schedule will factor into the new 4-team playoffs, this move would placate the ACC’s most important members while adding another football weak school, such as UConn, on top of Pitt and Syracuse may be the last straw that gets them to leave… and don’t even think about adding non-football members.
2. Competitiveness: Much to the point made in the first bullet, there is something to be said for not being awful. Maryland is awful, as are Uconn, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. While I’m at it, so are Boston College, Virginia, Wake Forest, and typically Duke. That’s half the conference if you exclude Notre Dame. Let’s give Clemson, FSU, and Notre Dame another decent opponent for prime time… at least every couple of years when Louisville is having a strong season.
3. Rich Media Markets and Fertile Recruiting Grounds: We’re told that the Big 10 invited Maryland to gain access to the D.C. media market. Getting the Big 10 network on all those TV sets may be a big boon for them, but it doesn’t do much to hurt the ACC who already have two schools in nearby Virginia and can now add the Cincinnati market with the addition of Louisville (Cincinnati is less than two hours from Louisville). With the exposure in Cincinnati and the rest of Ohio, ACC teams access the 5th best state for football recruiting. Neither Maryland nor Connecticut could make such a claim.
4. Culture: I don’t think it would be an offensive stretch to say the Southern ACC members are getting annoyed with the growing Northern skew of the conference. The long road trips to Boston and now Notre Dame are no picnic for Clemson, let alone for Miami. Louisville fortifies the Southern base of the conference geographically, but maybe more importantly is culturally southern, appreciating some beer and Bojangles before a football game. The last thing the ACC needs is more scarves, wine, and cheese at football tailgates in 30 degree weather.
5. Attendance: Connecticut’s football stadium only holds 40,000. That’s less than half of Clemson’s Death Valley and totally unacceptable. There are enough tiny stadiums in the conference already (see Wake Forest and Duke). Rentschler Field, is in East Hartford, half an hour from campus. This is going to pose long-term problems for the football program.
Meanwhile, Louisville plays in beautiful Papa John’s Stadium with 55,000 seat backs. Attendance in 2010 averaged 50,648 fans–more than 10,000 more than UConn’s can even fill (and they don’t fill it).
Maryland plays in Byrd Stadium, which holds roughly the same capacity as Papa John’s Stadium, but isn’t nearly as nice, and doesn’t fill up. Remember, they put attendance clauses into Randy Edsall’s contract?
6. Budget: Take this with a grain of salt, but Louisville’s revenues were pushing 150% of Maryland or UConn’s according to this seemingly solid source, USA Today.
7. Papa John’s is better than Under Armour: One of the more famous boosters in the ACC was Kevin Plank, a big Maryland booster and the founder of Under Armour. What an upgrade it would be to go from Steve Spurrier commercials and tight, male nipple hugging shirts to delicious pizza. Papa John’s CEO and founder John Schnatter owns the naming rights to Louisville’s stadium and pledged $10 million for stadium expansion. On top of that, he is really admirable and has appeared in commercials with Peyton Manning, which makes him a total bro.
8. Pleasing Touchdown Jesus: Kentucky borders both Virginia and Indiana, connecting Notre Dame to the rest of the conference. They make for a good natural rival, being less than five hours away, a very reasonable college football road trip, and make Notre Dame feel like a much better fit for the conference.
9. Stick it to the Big 10: Right after the Big 10 ventured far east of their natural boundaries and swiped a middling ACC team, it would only be justice for the ACC to venture West of Ohio to get an athletically and financially superior member to replace them, albeit not out of the Big 10.
Adding Louisville isn’t perfect though. Their academics are a legitimate concern. However, they do have a Law School and a Medical School. Plus, adding Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh more than offsets adding one lower tier academic institution, and it’s not like they’re West Virginia or anything (ok, so I’m still a little sore about that Orange Bowl loss).
My other concern is that they could lose head football coach, Charlie Strong, to a big opening like the one in Knoxville at UT. While I do think that is a distinct possibility, Louisville has demonstrated the ability to bring in talented coaches and has the budget to keep them more times than not. This is more of a short-term concern, than a systematic one, which isn’t too troubling–especially considering they wouldn’t join the ACC immediately.
Looking at the big picture, there’s a pretty strong case that Louisville is a better fit for the ACC than UConn, and not only that, but that they’d be a notable upgrade over Maryland. Adding the Cardinals makes sense on many fronts, and would be a welcome addition by me, and hopefully the rest of the ACC. Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear differing opinions or if the consensus among ACC and Clemson fans is that Louisville is the right move.
Finally, on the week before rivalry Saturday, I will leave you with this… www.ClemsonRejects.com
Beat South Carolina!
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