LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville president James Ramsey said today that, in the face of more conference realignment, the school has "done all we can do to position ourselves athletic and academically," then added, "there's going to be a lot of shakeout yet."
Ramsey said this afternoon before departing with the U of L basketball team for the Bahamas that U of L has had no direct contact with the ACC office itself. Still, a U of L source told WDRB this morning that both Ramsey and U of L athletic director Tom Jurich have had informal discussions with parties inside the conference. Ramsey wouldn't elaborate on any indirect discussions, but did not shy away from discussing the ACC openly.
"It would be a great conference for us, if we ever had that opportunity," Ramsey said. "It has great academic schools, great tradition and history going back to 1953. It's changing, has picked up, of course, some schools that were an integral part of the Big East. It's a wonderful conference."
Regardless, Ramsey said that while the conference landscape might have appeared settled, the looming payday of a college football playoff has conferences strategizing over how to get the most of that new revenue pie.
"Until the BCS money is determined, until that is put out for bid, and we know how much money is out there, I think what we're seeing is going to be the rule and not the exception," Ramsey said. "There are going to be a lot of changes. We've done all we can do, so I feel confident."
Ramsey said he participated in an executive committee conference call with Big East officials on Monday to discuss where the league goes from here, after the expected departure of Rutgers today. The biggest concern is how the change affects the ongoing negotiations for a new TV contract. While Ramsey said the instability likely will delay progress on that, he also said he still expects the conference TV deal to be improved.
"The Big East will have a much better contract, no question about it, much better than what it has now," he said. "The negotiations will take a while for the Big East. The TV folks I'm sure will want to this to reach some kind of settling point before this goes on any further. Those negotiations are going on right now. I think the Big East will come out fine."
As far as U of L's position within the Big East, Ramsey said the school is committed to working with the league to move forward.
"It's been a great home for us," Ramsey said. "It was a huge step up for us athletically and academically. The Big East has been good for us, we want to see the Big East be successful whether we're in the Big East or not in the Big East. But today we're in the Big East, and will continue to work and do everything we can do to help it be successful."
As for U of L's chances to move to another league, Ramsey said he said "there's a lot of interest" in U of L from various conferences. And he said that he expects that change is far from over.
One concern U of L officials have is that no matter how many improvements they can show prospective conferences from facilities to academics, television market and related concerns could outweigh any of them. But he said his outlook remains positive.
"There are things in life you just can't control," Ramsey said. "We've done everything we can do athletically and academically. I like what's going on with U of L. That's what we can control. We can't control our TV market. We can't control what networks think of what we bring in terms of TV. We'll keep working every day to position ourselves. We're not frustrated. Things will play out, and will play out well for U of L."
Ramsey said anticipation of new playoff revenue may have more conferences thinking about expansion, with the speculation being that more teams could mean a bigger slice of the playoff pie. And in describing that pie, he said, "It's big."
"I was on the group of BCS presidents and we met in June and made a big announcement (about the playoff), but we left the two hardest issues," Ramsey said. "The money and how it is going to be allocated, and how the teams will be selected. ... There's been a little progress on how the teams will be selected. But there are all kinds of rumors of what this will mean in terms of money, and it's big. And then the question is going to be how is it going to be allocated? And I think every conference will be better off. But some will be more better off than others."
Ramsey is hoping that beyond television markets, the desire of leagues to add to their stability might help U of L.
"Everybody's thinking of that pot of money and everybody's thinking about stability, and every conference is asking are we going to be the next to be raided? And there's all kinds of rumors about who is going where," Ramsey said. " ... The key is that with this BCS playoff money, that's what has to be driving all this. Conferences believe they can take in new members and not cost their existing members any of the distribution money."
For U of L, Ramsey acknowledged that keeping football coach Charlie Strong is a top priority.
"We don't want to lose Charlie, as Tom has said on a number of occasions," Ramsey said. "We'll do everything we can do to keep Charlie. People change jobs for a lot of reasons. Charlie wants to be successful. It's our job to make sure that he can be successful at the University of Louisville, and we'll do everything we can to make sure that's the case."
In the meantime, Ramsey says U of L will continue to push the message of its growth over the last 15 years, including the change in its academic mission and identity.
"We'll just keep doing better," he said. "We have a stellar athletic program, 15 years of no NCAA infractions, commitment to gender equity, a balanced budget, success of our student athletes, and look at the sports all the way across the board. We're getting better academically, the profile is improving, but that takes time. ... We have not gotten the message out nationally that we're a very different institution. ... You look at our trajectory, athletically and academically, and it's up."
Ramsey likes his university's direction. But he still can't shed light on its destination.
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