- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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It’s time to give ACC commissioner John Swofford some credit.
No, better yet, get him a bright red Louisville T-shirt. One that reads: Strong choice.
Bringing in Charlie Strong and the Cardinals now looks better than ever, as Louisville’s entire athletic program is at a peak. Not Connecticut. Not Cincinnati. Not West Virginia or any other program ACC fans had their eyes on from the onset of expansion talk. (You can have Rutgers and all of the baggage it travels with, Jim Delany). Louisville, which is in the spotlight now for all of the right reasons, is shaping up to be a home run replacement for Maryland, which will join the Big Ten in 2014. When the Terps announced they were bolting for Big Ten bucks, Swofford and the rest of the ACC were blindsided by the move. There was a sense of mistrust, disloyalty, and some ACC fans lamented the loss of one of the ACC’s original members.
Now? ACC fans are probably ready to help the Terps pack.
In the past four seasons, Louisville football is 29-22, compared to Maryland's 17-32 record. Louisville is 25-14 in the past three years under Strong. Maryland has won six games in the past two seasons under Randy Edsall. With one swift invitation to Tom Jurich & Co., and a good deal with Jack Swarbrick, Swofford gave the ACC an upgrade in the form of a national hoops champ, Louisville, and a BCS runner-up, Notre Dame.
Not a bad round of negotiations.
Sure, the Atlantic Division is going to be top-heavy and crowded, but that’s going to make for one of the toughest divisions in college football and one of the most exciting and relevant races to watch in the fall. With potentially three ranked teams in Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, the ACC’s Atlantic Division race will be prime time entertainment almost every weekend. Add to that the fact that ACC teams will play five games against Notre Dame on an annual basis, starting in 2014, and tickets should be as hot as Louisville is right now.
"When you look at Louisville, you see a university and an athletic program that has all the arrows pointed up -- a tremendous uptick there, tremendous energy," Swofford said on a teleconference last November.
The arrows were indeed pointing up on Monday night when Louisville beat Michigan for its first national title in hoops since 1986. Not only was it a win for Rick Pitino, it was a win for Swofford and the ACC.
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney