I’ve been a big fan of the website The Business of College Sports for quite some time now, and last night I stumbled across another interesting piece from the site’s editor, Kristi Dosh. She just spent the weekend here in Louisville taking in the horrific loss to Marshall and getting the pulse of Cardinal nation as it pertains to possibly staying or leaving the Big East. As she notes in her column, most fans, when asked about why they wanted to leave for the Big 12, offered up a similar response:
Because of an awkward relationship with our number one rival.
“After speaking with fans during my visit to Louisville this weekend, I believe the reason they want to leave has more to do with their relationship with UK than their desire to be proud Big 12 members. Their UK colleagues and relatives can say at least UK lost to football powerhouses like Alabama or Florida. A move to the Big 12 would mean Louisville fans could say they lost to Texas or Oklahoma rather than USF or Cincinnati.”
Could it be that Louisville fans are simply sick and tired of the perception from big sister and its rabid fan base always pointing out the fact that we play inferior competition in an inferior conference? I had never really thought of it in those terms, but I think we’d all be lying if we said it didn’t at least play a small part. Both sides of the fence have an obsessive hatred towards one another and anytime you can get a leg up on the other side, it’s a no-brainer. In this case, perhaps it’s a move to the Big 12. Or is it simply the desire to maintain a foot-hold on stable ground? The Big East and its ultimate gridiron demise could come at any time. Especially with these new rumors of West Virginia and a potential move to the SEC. A West Virginia-less Big East (at least in football) will surely lead to the ultimate demise of the conference as we know it.
When breaking down the reasons for potentially leaving for the Big 12, a few things come to mind.
1. The Big 12 is not the SEC. Comparisons stating such are ludicrous. The SEC has the last 5 national champions (Florida twice, LSU, Alabama and Auburn) and even their second tier schools like South Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee have great history and tradition and are capable of being top-10 teams any given year. The Big 12 has Texas and Oklahoma. Those are the only perennial powerhouses. Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are capable of making noise every few years, but it’s nothing consistent. Louisville can legitimately compete in the Big 12 and maybe even make a run at a conference title every few years. Remember, every school has it’s down years – look no further than Texas and their 5-7 record last year.
2. The money can potentially be bigger and better. As Dosh explains in her column, there’s not that much of a difference right now, but the Big 12 will have every opportunity to re-up in a few years and make a huge revenue jump with equal conference revenue sharing. The Big East will have a similar opportunity, but again, they’re so close to total disintegration, will it ever realistically happen?
3. Again, who’s to say that the Big East survives? With Uconn, Rutgers and West Virginia all OPENLY campaigning to leave the conference, it appears that one foot from each of those schools is already out the door. Louisville can ill-afford to sit back and watch the carnage this time around. They have to be forward-thinking and not get caught in reaction mode again.
Now, all that said, there’s a definite flip side to the coin. What if Uconn, Rutgers and West Virginia all agreed to stay (in all reality, I know that nothing like this could ever be guaranteed)? The Big East then adds Navy, Air Force, ECU and UCF in addition to the arrival of TCU in order to get to a 12 team league. If – and this is a big if – the conference was still guaranteed its BCS AQ status, then perhaps the notion to stay in the Big East is worth it. The revenue will increase with a conference championship game and the next TV deal will be monumental in comparison to the current deal. Not to mention that Louisville will have a better chance at winning on a regular basis.
At the end of the day, Louisville’s in a very unenviable position. They’re caught in between a potential tug-of-war between two very unstable conferences. Even if the Big 12 ratifies their 6-year deal to stay together, all it would take to tear apart the whole thing would be the Pac 12 or SEC to come sniffing around again. There’s no guarantees in any of this. Things are about to get real interesting over the next few weeks and right now it’s hard to bet on which side Louisville will end up.