Each week, we’ll examine schools that could potentially join the ACC at some point if/when the conference decides that 14 isn’t good enough. While it appears that conferences (ACC, and SEC soon) are content with 14 for now, any moves by conference cornerstone programs could cause even more shifting. With that in mind, we wanted to take a look at how each potential addition stacks up.
This week’s resume: Louisville Cardinals
School: University of Louisville
Team nickname: Cardinals
Location: Louisville, KY
Current League: Big East
Year Established in FBS: 1912
2011 W-L: 4-4
Overall W-L: 435-415-17 (incl. all games)
National Titles: 0
Bowls: 15 (1 BCS)
The Good: Louisville football has grown since its inception, from its early years in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, to its Conference USA dominance in the late 1990s-early 2000s, and then its recent promotion to the Big East in 2005. Playing in the majority of its bowl games in the past 15 seasons or so, they’ve sustained success in the BCS era, even playing in the Orange Bowl in 2007. Without a professional team in Louisville, fans show up in droves to support Cardinals football and basketball, regularly filing Papa John’s Stadium for the former, and finishing around the top five in NCAA basketball yearly attendance figures annually. Being a current Big East member, the school also has existing rivalries with Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as well as Notre Dame or any additional team that may join the ACC with them. Add in their two NCAA tournament championships in basketball, and it looks like a perfect fit.
The Bad: Prior to the 1990s, not a whole lot has going on with Louisville football (just three bowl bids before 1991). After running roughshod over its opponents from 1998-2006, they’ve faltered a bit of late, even finishing last in the Big East a few years back. Notably, the school is neither “Atlantic” nor “Coastal” from a geography standpoint. Without Notre Dame, their closest counterparts would be Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Additionally, there’s also the theory that the Cardinals are not even the most popular team in their city, with many University of Kentucky loyalists also calling the metro area home. As currently put together, the team would be similar to SU and Pitt, providing another middle-of-the-road squad to a league already heavy around the gut.
Our Vote: As much as one would like to admit Louisville on the merits of its basketball program alone, it would be difficult to look past a historical lack of real football success and a failure to deliver more on the ACC’s bottom line. On the other hand, Louisville is a growing metropolitan area, ranking in the top 50 in the country now by several different measures. The big unknown — eyes on television sets — coupled with its awkward geography however, could be enough to push Louisville toward the league’s backburner for the time being. On the positive side for them, they’ve recently spoken to the Big 12 about membership, and if the Big Ten decides to grab UConn and/or Rutgers, the ACC could have very few choices left but to take them.