Several days ago, Duke played Louisville in basketball’s Battle 4 Atlantis early-season tournament. In a few years, that will be a conference game.
At approximately 7 a.m. Eastern time this morning, the presidents of Atlantic Coast Conference schools, including Fr. William Leahy of Boston College, voted to formally invite the University of Louisville to join the ACC. The vote was reportedly unanimous. This news comes less than two weeks after Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, voted to join the Big Ten, leaving their former conference with a vacancy. The presidents reportedly had drawn interest from schools like Connecticut and Cincinnati, but only Louisville gained an invitation.
Next season, the ACC will grow to 14 teams with Syracuse and Pittsburgh entering the fray, with Louisville replacing Maryland the season after. Notre Dame will also join as a non-football member of the ACC at around the time Maryland leaves and Louisville takes their place.
This is a good move for the Atlantic Coast Conference for a few reasons. Of the schools that were willing and able to move, Louisville has the most solid athletics program. They run one of the more profitable athletic departments in the nation and have a very nice 55,000-seat football stadium. Their basketball arena is several times the size of Conte Forum, and why not, because it holds one of the best basketball teams in the nation at present. An ACC with Louisville and Notre Dame added to the 2013 crop would, in theory, be the best basketball conference in the country by a mile. Their football program is also currently strong (no pun intended, considering Charlie Strong is their coach), which is a point in their favor, at least as far as the ACC’s football schools are concerned. Finally, Louisville seems to enjoy good fan support.
Academically, Louisville’s US News and World Report ranking leaves much to be desired, as it is #160 and the next-lowest ACC school is at around #100 or so. They would not be a huge academic drag on the conference, but it is likely that they would have had to give presidents like Leahy and Commissioner John Swofford some assurances that they’re working on improving graduation rates and the like.
A new-look ACC football in several years would probably do well to go to North/South divisions, with Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and one of the North Carolina schools making up the ACC North and everyone else in the South. BC would have to fork over regular games against Clemson and Florida State, but the schedule would become a little more regional. As the ACC has spread north in recent years, starting with the addition of Boston College in 2005, it makes sense to toss these schools a bone. In basketball, Notre Dame would still make 15 and there will be no divisions, anyway.
Louisville definitely brings some nice things to the table, and of the options the ACC had, they were the best one.