The big news of the day in the the never-ending circus that is conference realignment as it relates to U of L is this tweet by Dennis Dodds of CBS Sports, in which he reports that Tony Barnhart, a writer for CBS Sports as well as the Atlanta Journal Constitution, said on Tim Brando’s radio show that he thought U of L would be the next team to join the Big XII. Barnhart, known as “Mr. Football,” is a well respected college football journalist and should be considered a credible source of information. This news comes nearly a day after new Big XII Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said in an interview that the majority of the Big XII members likes having ten teams and said in regards to a conference championship game, he likes not having one. Neither of these should be taken too seriously. SEC commissioner Mike Slive once said the conference would not expand, and now it has added Missouri and Texas A&M. There is no reason to take Bowlsby’s word on this. There is also no reason to take Barnhart at his word, who even stated it was just an opinion. That pretty much describes all realignment news. It is nearly all opinion and speculation.
The whole thing has been beat to death, and most U of L fans are as sick of it as I am, but the fact of the matter is it will not go away until U of L has some clarity as to where its future lies. There is new information every day, supposedly, from people who claim to have “sources” that are keeping them in the loop. Reading through message boards and certain peoples’ tweets, everyone has different sources telling them information every day. Either that, or they are making their own information up to get blog hits (but who would do such a thing???). The one thing that is clear from all this is that no one knows for sure what is going on. One day, a story will surface that has U of L being added in the summer, other stories will say U of L was never seriously considered and Texas will never allow them to join. It is best not to get too caught up in it. Thus far, there has been no real concrete information released since West Virginia officially joined the conference. Here are some teams other than Louisville that have been listed by various people and talking (tweeting?) heads since then in regards to joining the Big XII: Florida St., Clemson, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (yes, the same Pittsburgh that is set to join the ACC), and BYU. To repeat myself…no one has said anything of real substance and everything should be taken with a grain of salt.
I understand that fans are frustrated with all of this. In fact, it is of my opinion that a good majority of the animosity towards Rick Pitino this past season was not so much due to the team’s poor performance, but in fact due to him coming out against joining the Big XII and staying in the Big East. The cold, hard, truth is that the Big East of old, the conference we loved, is now dead. Removing West Virginia, Pitt, and Syracuse, and adding Central Florida, Houston, SMU, and Boise St. does not do anything to help the conference.
Our fans are constantly bickering about our current position in realignment as well, and there is definitely a hint of panic of Kragthorpian proportions present. Those who offer good news are met with joyful praise, and those who bring bad or negative news are treated as if they just kicked a puppy. There is no need for any of it and it does no good to attack one another. Let us not forget we are all on the same team here and want the best for U of L. Again, no one truly knows what is going on. What we do know is that U of L wants out. Tom Jurich has publicallly stated as much. Jurich is the best athletic director in the nation and has built this school into an all-around athletic success. We are one of the most profitable overall athletic programs due to this man, and he does not want to see everything he has built go to waste. Does this mean he will automatically get us into the Big XII? No, but do not expect the man to go down without a long fight.
It is my personal opinion that when it is all said and done, we will be in the Big XII. Football, of course will be the main beneficiary of a move to the conference. Competing with Texas and Oklahoma every year for a national championship will do a lot more to keep Charlie Strong at Louisville than staying in the Big East, a conference that has basically been shoved aside as irrelevant in the new playoff format. It will also do wonders for recruiting and should do a lot for attendance as well. Big XII fans travel well, and even the most casual fans would be more interested in seeing U of L play Texas at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium rather than seeing us play Houston. However, this is of course just my opinion and pure speculation, and that is all realignment is right now. All we can do for now is sit back, wait, and have faith that Tom Jurich knows what he is doing.