BOZICH: U of L Should Follow Notre Dame's Lead Into ACC - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: U of L Should Follow Notre Dame's Lead Into ACC

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Louisville would be a better fit than UConn or Rutgers in the ACC. Louisville would be a better fit than UConn or Rutgers in the ACC.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Taking Notre Dame can't be the final molar-rattling block the Atlantic Coast Conference throws at the stumbling Big East. The Fighting Irish are merely the latest recruit, the third Big East school the ACC has stolen in 52 weeks, and the sixth since 2004. 

Face it: The ACC has taken everything except the keys to Madison Square Garden – and that could be next.

Notre Dame gives the ACC 15 basketball teams. Schedulers know that's an awkward number, one that suggests the ACC is not finished expanding. Word is that Connecticut and Rutgers are scrambling to follow the Irish to Tobacco Road.

Why should the University of Louisville concede anything to those two? U of L would be a better fit in the ACC.

North Carolina football is coming to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium Saturday, serendipitous timing to show a foundational ACC program that U of L has the facilities, support and ambition to enhance a league moving beyond its Tobacco Road roots.

Time for U of L athletics director Tom Jurich and his staff to press the schmooze button. Make certain the Tar Heels understand you're extremely available.

Louisville would bring more sizzle to the ACC than the Huskies or the Scarlet Knights.

The across-the-board athletic program Jurich has built at U of L has been stronger with a more passionate fan base than anything we've seen on a consistent basis from UConn or Rutgers.

The ACC is the address Louisville should pursue. The ACC has the basketball muscle and football craving to get better that fits the profile that has evolved at Louisville.  The programs that Rick Pitino and Charlie Strong have built would enhance the ACC in both sports. The success U of L has delivered in women's basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball and other sports only strengthens the argument.

Jurich believes that "fit" has to be a driving principle in any athletic department. The ACC fits Louisville better than the Big 12, the league that is usually mentioned when U of L fans squawk about escaping the Big East for a better league.

The geography works better. Louisville also has a history with Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech that stretches three decades to the Metro Conference. Rivalries with Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame developed from the time Louisville joined the Big East in 2005.

Convincing Louisville fans that the ACC is preferable to the floundering Big East or more remote Big 12 won't be the challenge. Convincing the ACC to issue the invitation will be the issue.

UConn and Rutgers are considered the front-runners because they're statewide institutions alleged to bring more television viewers to the table. Some have always argued that academic stature remains an obstacle for U of L.

I use the word "alleged" for a reason. Yes, Rutgers considers itself part of the metropolitan New York City market.

That's silly. Scarlet Knights' football and basketball ranks as about the 237th most interesting thing to watch every weekend. Paoli High School delivers the Louisville market about as well as Rutgers delivers the NYC market.

Louisville basketball has won the Big East Tournament twice in four seasons. Rutgers has never advanced to the Big East Tournament championship game. Rutgers football has work to do. It's always had work to do.

UConn also wins the flat-screen battle with Louisville. The Hartford/New Haven market is ranked 30th nationally by Nielsen, 18 spots ahead of metropolitan Louisville. With nearly 1 million households, it has about a 50 percent edge on Louisville.

The Huskies have other issues. You're talking about a basketball program that can't play in the NCAA or Big East Tournament this season because of NCAA probation. It's a program that has been a one-man band – and the bandleader (Jim Calhoun) is 70 and considering retirement, perhaps by October.

Football matters more than basketball?

I believe UConn football is the program that lost $1.8 million and its head coach Randy Edsall after the Huskies sold 2,771 of their 17,500-ticket allotment for the Fiesta Bowl two seasons ago.

After two games this season, U of L is averaging 51,470 fans, UConn 34,736. Louisville wins every beauty contest category against Connecticut football.

Notre Dame is the sixth Big East school the ACC has recruited in less than a decade. If the ACC is looking for a seventh, it should look at Louisville before it takes UConn or Rutgers.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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