IS THE CONFERENCE STRONG AS THE SHUFFLING GOES ON?
(Case is out sick today, so you get a Paulie article today, you lucky kids...)
Fall 2022 in "life in the ACC" should be some interesting times. As other conferences knock and "huff and puff" at the conference's door, wooing Clemson, Notre Dame and other ACC powers, where people wonder if the ACC should fire a pre-emptive strike and bring in a powerhouse school or two, and the Big12 reacts to being raided...how does the conference we joined in 2014 look?
First off, we are the newest member of the 15-team ACC conference, the "junior" in the family, but arguably the most successful athletic program in the ACC since we've joined. I can remember playing in the Missouri Valley Conference...where only Drake and Bradley remain as members when we were in there...and Cincinnati, Memphis and St, Louis were our big rivals.
Our "bouncing around" to the Metro, C-USA, Big East and AAC hasn't seemed to affect our excellence in athletics too much. The real question is: Has Louisville reached the pinnacle of conferences to be involved in? Is it an SEC world and we're all just living in it, or can a revamped Big12, Big 10, Pac 12, and ACC square off toe-to-toe with the SEC.
In women's sports, which is what we cover, but, sadly -- pretty much a non-factor in conference-realignment figuring -- I think the Louisville women's sports programs could hold their own and rise to the top in any conference out there. WBB, Field Hockey and Volleyball obviously leading the way -- with swimming right behind them and soccer, softball and lacrosse showing huge growth potential.
Sadly, it is not women's sports that determines a conference change-over or re-alignment. We all know the SEC didn't include Oklahoma because of women's soccer or Texas because of softball. The women's sports become "passengers, not drivers" in schools jumping to new conferences. Was Maryland Field pleased when the Terps joined the Big 10 in 2014? Probably not, in terms of quality of in-conference competition originally...but the Big 10 schools knew they had to get stronger in Field Hockey to compete with the Terps and they did. Six Big 10 schools were atop the DI Field Hockey RPI's in late November. 1-6 they were, with Liberty 7th and Louisville 8th.
The SEC would undoubtedly love to raid Clemson, Notre Dame and maybe even FSU to add strength to their football contingents. South Carolina and Florida would probably howl at this move (just like Kentucky would growl if the SEC courted Louisville) . When (and where) does iy end , though? Does it all eventually become five conferences, with subdivisions, for the 350 DI schools? And, would we join the SEC if asked? After all, they DON'T play Field Hockey or Lacrosse. OK, they're not huge money makers, but they have a strong and loyal fan base here....plus two quality and highly regarded coaches.
And, what kind of role will the NCAA play in future shuffling and changes? Could there be a "power of 64" schools that pull away from the NCAA, form their own jurisdiction and governing body and create their own schedules, opponents and conference alignments? Yes, dear reader, the almighty dollar xould be the main underlying factor here.
It makes sense, this super-alignment of powerful schools' athletic programs. Surely Louisville (and Kentucky) would be a part of it, maybe WKU as well.
But, I think the ACC is safe and solid (for now). I'd like to see an expansion to 16 teams (invite WVU and they'd come running) and create a solidarity where "invading conferences" would have to pay humongous amounts of money to raid the ACC and leaving schools pay a bunch, too, to leave.
STAY TUNED, though. This is a horse race where five contenders are all within a length of each other as they turn for the stretch. Throw in the big factor (money) and simmer slightly until you're ready to serve.
What are your thoughts on the ACC? Sound off in our comments section, if you've got a "take".
CARDINAL COUPLE RADIO HOUR PODCAST
Looks like there will be three of us on the podcast today, with Case out sick and Daryl busy at work. And, Jared is still recovering from "the COVID" so we'll see how effective he is. I'm OK and I'm guessing Jeff is (as of 10:30 a.m.)
Join us at 11 a.m. today. Go to THIS LINK to listen.