Louisville's time has finally arrived. Stuck in Big East limbo for more than a year since Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and TCU announced their departures from the league, the ACC Council of Presidents voted to accept Louisville as a new member Wednesday morning.
The Cardinals, members of the Big East since 2005, will replace Maryland, which left for the Big 10 last week, in the ACC in 2014. Louisville will give the ACC 14 all-sports members. Norte Dame will be a full member of the league except in football.
"With the addition of the University of Louisville, the ACC continues to be well positioned for the future competing at the highest level in all facets of the collegiate experience," said the ACC Council of Presidents in a joint statement. "The ACC continues to be a vibrant conference that remains steadfast in its commitment to balancing academics and athletics."
"The University of Louisville will be a terrific member of the Atlantic Coast Conference," said University of North Carolina Chancellor Holden Thorp, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents. "We welcome them as full partners into the ACC."
"With its aggressive approach to excellence in every respect, the University of Louisville will enhance our league's culture and commitment to the cornerstones we were founded on 60 years ago," said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. "The University of Louisville is an outstanding addition to the Atlantic Coast Conference and I commend the Council of Presidents for continuing to position our league for the long-term future. If you look at what has been done over the last 15 months, the ACC has only gotten stronger with the additions of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse."
After Syracuse and Pittsburgh surprised the Big East last fall with their sudden decisions to join the ACC, Louisville had been seeking a life raft to escape its sinking league. Louisville appeared positioned to join the Big 12 last year after Missouri and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC, but TCU and West Virginia outmaneuvered the Cardinals.
Since being left at the alter by the Big 12, Louisville has watched restlessly as the Big East faltered around it. The Cards have recently watched Notre Dame leave for the ACC, and Rutgers announce that it was joining the Big 10. With six Big East members racing out of the league in the past year, Louisville's conference situation became dire.
Besides losing key members, the Big East also lost its status as an automatic Bowl Championship Series qualifying conference, as a new four-team playoff structure beginning replaces the current BCS in 2014. Since joining the Big East in 2005, the league had always fought the perception it wasn't an equal of the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. The loss of multiple members and BCS access removed any doubt that the Big East wasn't a first-class citizen in college footballs new order.
To make matters worse, a new television deal, which Big East administrators hoped would stabilize the conference, still hasn't materialized. Louisville appeared stuck in a league that was supposed to span from San Diego to Hartford, CT, with ten other locales in between, next year. The kicker came Tuesday when the Big East announced the additions of Tulane and East Carolina.
That's when the ACC rescued UofL. The Cardinals can now take comfort that they have a spot at the Big Boy table. The ACC, considered the nation's best basketball league, now boasts several of the nation's elite programs with Louisville, Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina and Pittsburgh. And though the ACC trails the SEC, Big 10, and Big 12 in football, the league has plenty of firepower with Florida State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College and Clemson.
"When it became apparent to us that we needed to make a move, the ACC is the perfect fit for us and we are so elated to be joining this prestigious conference," said Tom Jurich, Vice President and Director of Athletics. "Under John Swofford's leadership, the ACC continues to prosper. This will open so many more doors for us both athletically for all of our sports programs, and academically for our university.
"What I really like about this move is it's terrific for our fans, with the proximity of the institutions and we never have to leave the Eastern time zone. This is a credit to everyone at the University of Louisville and our community, as we have all pulled together to position ourselves for this opportunity. It's amazing what has happened here over the last 15 years. We appreciate so much what the BIG EAST Conference has meant to us."
Louisville's new league bears strong resemblance to it's old conference. The Cardinals are the seventh Big East member since 2003 to latch on with the ACC, joining Miami, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
Here's what Louisville fans can look forward to in the ACC:
Football: An annual conference championship game, this year held in Charlotte, NC and televised on ESPN. A partnership with the Orange Bowl worth $55 million annually. Access to the four-team national playoff, which starts in 2014; The league also has partnerships with the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando), Belk Bowl (Charlotte), Music City Bowl (Nashville), Independence Bowl (Shreveport), Military Bowl (Washington D.C.), Sun Bowl (El Paso) and Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Atlanta).
Basketball: The ACC will sit alone atop college basketball, featuring five programs who have won the NCAA championship. North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, Louisville and Georgia Tech have all participated in the Final Four in the last decade. The ACC Tournament, held in Atlanta's Philips Arena last season, is annually one of the most exciting and highly attended conference tournaments in the nation.
Since the league's inception in 1953, ACC schools have captured 122 national championships, including 65 in women's competition and 57 in men's.
Stay tuned to InsideTheVille.com for in-depth coverage and analysis of Louisville's move to the ACC, and what it will mean for the Cardinals on and off the field.
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