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Sports Commentary 11/29/12

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The latest move by the ACC to bring Louisville in and not UConn was all about the pigskin…

IT’S THE FOOTBALL, STUPID

Now we know. It all comes down to football. If only someone had mentioned it, say, 12 years ago, it may never have come down to this. The state of Connecticut went into mourning yesterday when ACC presidents came out of a conference call announcing that, by a unanimous vote, Louisville, not UConn, had been invited to leave the Big East and fill the void left a week earlier when Maryland announced it was bolting to the Big Ten. For most of that week UConn had been considered the favorite. Yesterday Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich indicated that UConn had the inside track down to the wire, saying it was his understanding UConn wasn’t pencilled in for the berth, but was “penned” in, written in ink, that something happened at the last minute to change things dramatically. Jurich himself probably had a hand in that last minute change, putting his hopes for the future where his athletic department butters it’s bread, putting a full court football press on ACC officials. There were probably other factors. Louisville’s $84 million athletic department budget, which tops any budget currently in the ACC, was certainly viewed favorably. The geographic fit with the more established ACC programs was taken into consideration, ACC commissioner John Swofford saying, “Geographically this allows (us) to extend our footprint into a vibrant region that is collegiately driven while maintaining our strong roots up and down the Atlantic coast.” The hint in that statement is “collegiately driven”. UConn is located smack in the middle of a top 30 television market, Louisville far from it. But Louisville’s market is college oriented and excited about football, college football, very excited. To the tune of filling up a 55 thousand seat stadium for a team that is perennially challenging for a BCS bowl berth while 40,000 seat Rentschler field fails to fill up on Saturday afternoons. UConn’s T-V market is directed more at pro sports, the SNY-New York market more concerned about the Yankees, Knicks and Giants than about UConn football while the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics draw as big a fan base in UConn’s own back yard in eastern Connecticut. No one will deny UConn’s basketball pedigree. It’s second to none. Too bad this wasn’t about basketball. The attractiveness of Louisville football, to leagues other than the ACC, was part of the reason the league jumped on the Cardinals when they did. Conference realignment is far from over and the SEC or Big 12 were likely to get their hooks into Louisville football if the ACC didn’t. UConn, they pointed out, was going nowhere, as in the current state of their 5-6 football team, which would currently measure success as being .500, far below Louisville standards. If the ACC needs us we’ll still be here two years from now. It’s sort of like getting a date with the prom queen because every other guy on campus had the flu. It’s hard to be told nobody wants you. It was all about football, the argument I’ve been pushing for a dozen years. The argument no one in the nation’s premier basketball conference wanted to hear was the only argument Louisville had an answer for that UConn did not. I predicted that UConn would get the invitation to join the ACC. In the end I was wrong, because, in the end, I was right. It was all about football. Go figure. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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