During Thusday’s stop on the Cardinal Caravan tour at Captain’s Quarters, Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich addressed a crowd of U of L fans as stormy weather seemed immenent with dark clouds, lightning and thunder overhead. The storm never did come during the event, but Jurich caused a bit of a storm himself with his comments to the fans regarding conference realignment. In another great piece by WDRB’s Eric Crawford, these comments by Jurich are not exactly what fans hoping to get out of the Big East immediately want to hear.
“We can’t control our options,” Jurich said. “There’s no movement right now. Everything has settled. So we’ve just got to stand back and judge what are the best options for us if they do become available. And if they don’t, the Big East is a pretty damn good landing for us.”
As much as we would all like Jurich to come out and say, “Get ready to join the Big XII!” it just is not happening, and may not be happening in the near future. The rumors about the SEC/Big XII Champions Bowl requiring two winners of conference championship games bodes well for U of L getting another look from the Big XII, but nothing is given, and Jurich is not going to tell fans something just because they want to hear it. He is going to be honest, forthright, and what he says may not please everyone. “Good landing spot” can basically be translated into, “It could be worse.” Yes, it absolutely could be. We could still be in Conference USA or stuck in a conference like the Missouri Valley Conference. There are little kids starving in China, too. While yes, it could be worse, the Big East is definitely not the best landing spot for us, especially as it applies to football.
The Big East has essentially been left out in the new college football championship format. That is a nice way of saying the Big East is irrelevant. Staying in the Big East will likely cause damage to U of L’s recruiting efforts, as top-tier recruits will want to play somewhere where they can win championships and play at the highest level. It is being rumored that Jason Hatcher, a highly touted defensive end recruit from Louisville Trinity, will pick USC as his future school next week over the hometown Cards (and others). James Quick announced via Twitter U of L and Ohio State are his top two choices. At Ohio State, he will be able to play for a national championship. At U of L, he may not have that option. Of course, as long as Charlie Strong is the head coach, we will stay competitive in both recruiting and on the field results. Players respect him and know he can get them to the next level. Yet, how long will he stay if there is no opportunity to hoist a championship trophy over his head? Strong is a man of integrity and I do believe has a sense of loyalty to U of L and Tom Jurich, but in two to three years if an SEC or Big XII school comes calling, could any of us really blame him for listenting? Schools like Boise St., Houston, and others are actually upgrades in terms of competition over Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and one could even argue Boise St. is tougher than West Virginia. However, the powers that be do not see the Big East as a championship-level conference.
Now, before anyone wants to go off on an anti-Jurich rant or say he is not doing enough, just know this. The man is the best AD in the country. Period. The only reason conferences like the Big XII and ACC are seriously considering us is because of him. Without him, we likely do not have the facilities we have in all sports as well as the overall athletic success we have had across the board. There is likely no Omaha trip, and there is likely no Rick Pitino coaching the sidelines of U of L basketball games. Yes, he made a major mistake in hiring Kragthorpe. The man is human. That should not overshadow what he has built here. So for anyone out there wanting to take this out on Jurich, pipe down and show a little respect.
Jurich is being nothing more than truthful. He will not lie to the fans and he will not elaborate on any hypotheticals. He will speak on where we are and what we are doing and that is it. Right now, he says we are in the Big East and he is trying to make the best out of it. What would you want him to say? “The Big East sucks, I hate it, what’s the point in even trying in this conference?” The man will continue working to do what is best for Louisville, and if we have to stay in the Big East longer than we want to, he will do his job to make the best out of it.
Yet, as comfortable of a situation as he can make it, the Big East will never be the Big XII, SEC, Pac-12, Big 10, and (apparently) the ACC as far as football is concerned. Yes, it could definitely be a lot worse, but it could also be a whole lot better. We, as fans, are in the same position as Jurich right now. It is out of our control. The best thing to do right now is to sit back, get ready for an outstanding football season followed by outstanding basketball season and hope someone opens their eyes and takes notice.