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Why Louisville Athletics Will Say No to the Big 12

September 29, 2011
By

In Airball, J. Bruce Miller’s account of Louisville’s pursuit of an NBA franchise, the local attorney regularly references the “Ruppians.” He defines the group as the powers that be in the Derby City that made life difficult for the group attempting to bring professional basketball to our city. Notable “Ruppians” include the University of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich and of course men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The road to the Big 12 goes through Rick Pitino.

After reading Airball for the first time in middle school, I came to the realization that the Louisville sports landscape begins and ends with these two men. Nothing big will happen without their blessing. It sounds almost mob like, because it is. After all, Pitino’s program is the only college basketball team that is ranked in the top 25 most profitable college teams.

Within this paradigm shift commonly referred to as conference realignment, football (not basketball) is king. College football television deals are what makes this carousel go round. The University of Texas’ new Longhorn Network is what forced Texas A&M to the SEC and start this mess. That allowed Pittsburgh and Syracuse to jump the Big East ship and now leaves both conferences with huge questions, and Louisville literally caught in the middle.

Louisville is both figuratively and literally in the middle of the Big East and Big 12. It’s far enough east for it to make sense to have membership in the Big East. It’s also far enough into the middle of America to stake a claim to the Big 12.

Over the weekend the buzz grew deafening regarding the Big 12 inviting Louisville to join its ranks. While officially Louisville has yet to rule out this option, Rick Pitino essentially has.

In a blog post published yesterday morning, Pitino talked about the survival of the Big East. Not only did he leave out any mention of the Big 12, but he also talked about the “travel problem” teams west of the Mississippi face. Pitino cited the problems that other sports teams would face in a “mega football conference.”

To understand Pitino’s distaste for the prospect of Louisville in the Big 12 we have to understand his roots. Pitino is a Big East man through and through. He is from Long Island, he played for Providence. Heck, he coached the Celtics.

The Big East/Northeastern mentality is ingrained in Pitino’s DNA. It shows in how he coaches, recruits, and every facet of his program. A switch to the Big 12 is against every bit of that. That move would change everything about Pitino, he wouldn’t be able to be the same coach. How can Tom Jurich and Louisville athletics be sure that Pitino is up to make such a huge change so late in his career?

It’s easy to see why Cards fans would be excited by a move to the Big 12. First look at the basketball implications, the Big 12 wouldn’t have the depth that the Big East has had. Still, imagine the epic showdowns that we could see against teams like Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas. Louisville would bring tons of buzz to what is already a very strong basketball conference.

On the football side, the Cardinals would be entering the strongest conference in the nation. The promise of seeing  some of the best teams in the nation every season would improve the program tremendously. Charlie Strong could scour Florida and tell high schoolers, “Hey, you are going to play against Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma every year.” It would put the program on the next level and prevent U of L from playing in what will be an even more underwhelming football conference.

Many Cards fans expect Jurich and company to pounce on the opportunity to play among such prestigious programs. It looks appealing in so many different ways. Mike Rutherford, the man behind the popular blog Card Chronicle, said he would “almost guarantee making a move to the Big 12″ if it was available.

But how can we be sure that Louisville would take that chance?

When the formal invite to the Big 12 party comes before the Louisville Board of Trustees, what will Coach Pitino say? My money is on Pitino taking up the role of the skeptic, forcing school officials to choose between a better future (and bottom line) for their athletic program and upsetting the face of said program.

The fact is that Rick Pitino is Louisville basketball, and Louisville basketball signs the checks. If Pitino isn’t on board with a move to the Big 12, it’s not going to happen. No matter how hefty the resulting paycheck would be.

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Gabe Duverge

Born in New York City to Dominican Immigrants, sports was instantly apart of my life. While the height of my competitive athletic career is fraternity intramural badminton, my love of sports is boundless. I studied journalism at duPont Manual High School's Communications Media Arts department and working towards a Bachelor's in Communications at the University of Louisville. In between bouts with blogging and podcasting I worked with WLKY in the infancy of their High School Playbook project and the Louisville Cardinal newspaper. Besides sports, I have passions for great cinema, television, and gadgets.

http://www.louisvilleky.com

11 Responses to Why Louisville Athletics Will Say No to the Big 12

  1. B on September 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Uh… no. The road to the Big 12 DOES NOT go through Rick Pitino. Pitino is not bigger than UofL. UofL had every right to fire his a$$ for the sypher mess. He has underachieved in his time at UofL. While at UofL Pitino has only been past the 2nd round of the tourney three times in ten years. Going to the Big 12 would do nothing but help UofL sports. UofL belongs in a BCS conference and the Big East is not guaranteed to be a BCS conference in a couple years. Everybody knows Pitino is a east coast guy and he is whining because things aren’t going his way. He’s gonna have to get over it.

  2. MattDoyel on September 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

    This opinion piece made me LOL.

    Rick Pitino is a distant third when it comes to input on conference alignment.

  3. PhilipDC on September 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Why do people that write columns like this one conveniently forget that Pitino ALSO coached and thrived in the SEC and Lexington, KY. How far removed is that from the East Coast? Pitino will be fine in the Big 12…

  4. Steve Cecil on September 29, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    UofL basketball will be fine no matter what conference it is in. It will even be fine if (when?) Rick Pitino decides to hang it up. We aren’t tearing down the KFC Yum! Center because he decides to retire or because we leave the Big East conference. It will be filled with fans paying the same hefty seat license fees whether we are in the Big East or the Big XII.

    It’s UofL football that needs protecting. Jurich will take a Big XII invitation in a heartbeat, because the only football schools committed to the Big East are those that currently have no other options: Cincy and USF.

  5. davilledude on September 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    “On the football side, the Cardinals would be entering the strongest conference in the nation”?

    Give me a break. The Big 12 ranks behind the SEC, Big Ten, and PAC 10 in football. Why do you think Nebraska left?

    I put them on par with the ACC in football…maybe.

  6. Louisville Lip on September 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    The previous poster nailed it. The comment about the Big 12 being “the strongest conference in the nation” borders on complete ignorance. Ignore the entire article as obviously the writer doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  7. Jeff on September 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Good article – never heard of the Ruppians before. Pitino no doubt does and should have a lot of say in what happens to Louisville basketball. Though football makes a disproportionate amount of money (even with UL basketball being the most profitable), I have no problem admitting the obvious; U of L is a basketball school first and foremost (just like UNC, UK, Syracuse, etc). I hope football succeeds, and I am a big fan, but the 30+ basketball games each year, where we can win against any team we play, is what I look forward to most. Go Cards.

  8. LordofDarkness70 on October 1, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    Bah ! I don’t want anything to do with Texas because they’re reason why Big 12 nearly got killed when Nebraska and Colorado left. LHN became new problem for Big 12 when Texas A&M decided to leave Big 12 then Missouri wants to leave, too. Hell, PAC 12 and ACC don’t want Texas either. I don’t want Texas to keep its LHN either unless it turns into Big 12/16 network which probably will never happen.

    I also think 1st and 2nd tier rights definitely ridiculous ,so they need equality revenue sharing no but or that. Now, Big 12 TV contract is rather weak that’s other reason I don’t want to see UL going to Big 12.

    I admit that Big East is not stability yet. In order to make Big East more stability than ever before, I believe that Commissioner John Marinatto has to go because he was not able to unify both football and non-football teams just like Mike Tranghese. Former Commissioner Tranghese decided to be retired because he tired of football vs. non-football arguments. Btw, John Marinatto is on same boat as Dan Beebe. I think Big East will get stronger only if they can balance between football and non-football members with 12 each.

  9. William on October 3, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I agree with a previous post that UofL basketball will survive regardless of what conference it’s in. I remember quite well 19,000 in Freedom Hall when Virginia Commonwealth(Metro) and UAB(C-USA) came to town. And the Yum Center will indeed have 22,000 if Baylor were to ever visit. Hopefully Pitino will be on board with a potential BigXII move. It’s preposterous to think The Board of Trustess wouldn’t vote unanimously in favor of such a move. This is exactly why UofL Football moved up from DivII back in the 70′s. This is the opportunity the program has waited for for 35+yrs, to compete with the elite college football programs. Are we going to give up on this dream because one man doesn’t like it? If Howards prophecy is ever going to be fulfilled, it’s not going to happen in the Big East. If Rick doesn’t support this goal(set long before he came to Louisville)then Rick needs to move on. There are plenty of young, outstanding coaches out there who would LOVE to be the next Louisville Mens Basketball Coach. Joining the BigXII(if an invite comes) is an absolute no-brainer.

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