ACC to add Louisville in 2014
Louisville will officially join the Atlantic Coast Conference, becoming the seventh former Big East school to leave for the ACC.
The ACC's presidents and chancellors voted Wednesday morning to add the Cardinals in place of Maryland, which will leave for the Big Ten in 2014.
Louisville also is expected to join the ACC in 2014 and will become the league's sixth football member formerly associated with the Big East. The Cardinals will be required to pay the Big East a $10 million exit fee and give 27 months' notice. But Louisville -- like several other exiting schools -- should be able to negotiate a higher buyout to leave before the 27-month period.
ACC commissioner John Swofford said Louisville was the best fit for the league following Maryland's announcement last week that it would join the Big Ten.
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"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. "It's always an overall fit in every respect and I think that's what we found."
Swofford also said the league is comfortable staying at 14 full members with the addition of Louisville.
The ACC also considered Connecticut and Cincinnati for membership. However, sources told ESPN that the league wanted Louisville only because there is a sense among league presidents that the ACC can add more schools at a later date if the conference loses any other current members.
The ACC felt Louisville was the best choice because of its "aggressive approach" to success, including a commitment to "marquee athletics programs," a source told ESPN. The recent additions of Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame -- which joins in all sports except football but has a scheduling partnership with the conference in that sport -- make the ACC feel as though it is "in a position of strength," the source said.
"I'm very excited to join this prestigious conference," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said. "For the ACC to have faith in us means the world to us athletically and academically. The biggest winner is our school being associated with all of the prestigious schools.
"While I'm very excited, I'm very sad for the Big East. The Big East has been very good to this university. I thought (when Louisville joined in 2005), it would be a lifetime commitment until things around us started deteriorating. Instead of looking back, we're looking forward. We want to be a great partner with every institution in the ACC."
On Tuesday, the Big East added Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football only, also beginning in 2014.
In a statement, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco wished Louisville well and said the league's additions are important for its future.
"We are committed to a vibrant and dynamic future for the Big East Conference," Aresco said.
The ACC's decision to add Louisville is a blow for Connecticut, which had been looking for a landing spot since Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their Big East exits. UConn President Susan Herbst had indicated that an invitation to join that ACC is something the school would welcome.
"We will be athletically successful, regardless of our conference, because of our successes in NCAA competition," Herbst said in a statement. "... I realize this is a difficult day, but when we focus on research, discovery, and student success, we'll never go wrong."
Louisville football coach Charlie Strong had predicted the school's move after his weekly coaches show Sunday, saying: "Maybe this will be the last show we do as a member of the Big East."
In the past four seasons, Louisville football is 27-22, compared to Maryland's 17-32 record. Louisville is 23-14 in the past three years under Strong, including 9-2 this season. The Cardinals can win the Big East title by defeating Rutgers on Thursday.
The Cardinals' football future looks bright as well. Of Louisville's 22 starters, only five are seniors, compared to 10 sophomore or freshman starters.
Louisville also has managed to maintain one of the nation's top athletic budgets despite receiving only $3.2 million annually from the Big East's current media-rights deal. The Cardinals' current budget ranks higher than that of any current ACC member.
In 2011-12, the latest date available from the Office of Postsecondary Education's Equity in Athletics, Louisville had a budget of $84.4 million. The ACC's highest budget was Florida State ($81.4 million), while Maryland's budget was only $57.5 million.
The Cardinals' basketball program can also match up with elite programs in the ACC. Since the 2004-05 school year, Louisville has reached two Final Fours and two Elite Eights.
Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino told ESPN via text message that he thinks Louisville joining the ACC is "awesome for the university and city."
Louisville is among four current and future ACC schools that have won 20 or more games in each of the past 10 seasons. Only nine schools in Division I have accomplished that, including Duke, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
Louisville basketball averaged 21,503 fans last season, the nation's third-highest number behind only Syracuse and Kentucky. The city of Louisville also has had the nation's highest-rated college basketball television market in each of the past 10 years.
Over the past six years, Louisville is the nation's only school that has reached both the men's and women's basketball Final Four, a BCS bowl game, the College World Series and the Men's soccer College Cup.
The addition of Louisville will not affect the ACC's new media-rights deal. When the ACC added Notre Dame in all sports except football in September, sources told ESPN the conference's media-rights deal was expected to increase to about $18 million annually per school.
The ACC will mark Louisville's third football conference since 1996, when it joined Conference USA after being an independent for the previous 21 years. Louisville was in C-USA from 1996 to 2004 before leaving for the Big East in 2005.
Louisville's departure marks the seventh school in the past year that has announced it is leaving the Big East. West Virginia, TCU, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Rutgers also are on the way out. Because of all the defections, the Big East is scheduled to add nine schools between 2013 and 2015 -- Boise State, San Diego State, SMU, Houston, UCF, Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina and Navy.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Wednesday the academy is committed to its first conference affiliation since it started playing football in 1879.
"Right now, nothing's changed in terms of our attitude or ambition in terms of joining in '15," he said. "We're just going to see how it all unfolds."
Louisville's move to the ACC is the latest in the never-ending musical chairs known as conference realignment. In the past few years, the nation's top five conferences -- SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC -- have announced the addition of 12 members, causing a wave of disruption among virtually every Division I conference from coast to coast.
The uncertainty on the college landscape has been so rampant that two league members issued statements about their commitment to the ACC. Athletic directors from North Carolina and Virginia each issued statements, reiterating they had not been in contact with or were interested in any other conferences.
ESPN's Joe Schad and Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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