ACC Commissioner John Swofford said Louisville was the best fit for the league following Maryland’s announcement last week that it would join the Big Ten in 2014.
“When you look at Louisville, you see a university and an athletic program that has all the arrows pointed up – a tremendous uptick there, tremendous energy,” Swofford said on a teleconference. “It’s always an overall fit in every respect and I think that’s what we found.”
Louisville is the fourth school in 15 months and seventh in the past decade to leave the Big East for the ACC. Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their move in September 2011 and will join the league next year, while Notre Dame said two months ago that it would eventually join in all conference sports except football.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said it was hard not to worry about constantly shifting conference alignments and whether the school might be left out when everything finally settles. Louisville was a candidate to join the Big 12 last year before that league took West Virginia.
“We wanted to make sure all our opportunities were looked at,” Jurich said. “But having the opportunity to go into the ACC is I think second to none, especially for our community around here. ... I can just tell you from our standpoint, we couldn’t be in a better fit.”
A person familiar with the situation said that ACC leaders also considered Connecticut and Cincinnati over the past week before the vote to add Louisville during a conference call Wednesday morning.
It’s unclear exactly when Louisville will join the ACC. Swofford said that would have to be worked out between the school and the Big East. He also said the league is comfortable staying at 14 full members with the addition of Louisville.
The Big East has a 27-month notification period for any member that wants to leave. The Big East has shown a willingness to negotiate, as it did with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who paid $7.5 million each to get out early when the exit fee was $5 million. The Big East has since increased that fee to $10 million.
This latest rapid-fire round of realignment was set off last week by the Big Ten’s additions of Maryland and Rutgers, which will join that conference in 2014.
In a statement, Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco wished Louisville well and said the league’s additions are important for its future.
“We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference,” Aresco said.
Two months ago, the ACC announced the addition of Notre Dame for all the conference’s sports but football, with the fiercely independent Fighting Irish committing to play five ACC football opponents each season. Most of Notre Dame’s non-football sports have competed in the Big East since 1995.
Louisville’s addition will add some extra juice to what’s already one of the nation’s premier conferences for men’s basketball.
Louisville, currently ranked No. 5, brings a tradition-rich program to the ACC that has won two national championships and reached its ninth Final Four last season. In addition, Rick Pitino will give the league another marquee coaching name alongside Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and soon Jim Boeheim of Syracuse.
The school’s football program is a win away from earning a BCS berth. Charlie Strong’s Cardinals travel to Rutgers on Thursday night for a game in which they could clinch the Big East’s BCS bid.
The ACC’s decision to add Louisville is a blow for Connecticut, which had been looking for a landing spot since Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their Big East exits. UConn President Susan Herbst had indicated that an invitation to join that ACC is something the school would welcome.
“We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition,” Herbst said in a statement. “... I realize this is a difficult day, but when we focus on research, discovery, and student success, we’ll never go wrong.”