The Louisville Cardinals and Duke Blue Devils played in men’s basketball on Saturday for the first time since 1986. (Duke won.) Now, the two storied hoops teams will be seeing much more of each other in the coming years.
The University of Louisville is joining the Atlantic Coast Conference, leaving behind a Big East Conference that continues to lose members to rival leagues.
The ACC’s Council of Presidents on Wednesday unanimously voted to admit UofL, according to a news release issued by the conference and the university.
“The University of Louisville is honored to join the ACC, a conference with a long history of excellence in athletics and academics,” UofL President James Ramsey said in a statement.
“The ACC will be a great home for UofL and our commitment to great academics, groundbreaking research and top-notch athletic teams.”
Louisville will join the ACC in 2014 — at the same time the University of Maryland exits the ACC for the Big 10, ESPN.com is reporting.
UofL has been a Big East member since 2005.
But the Big East recently lost Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, leading to widespread speculation that UofL would seek an exit, too. In recent years, the Big 12 has also been considered a possible new conference for the Cardinals.
The size of the Louisville media market and its academic rankings were seen as encumbrances for UofL joining the ACC; UConn and other schools were reportedly also seeking the 14th ACC spot left open by Maryland’s abrupt departure.
But it’s to the ACC for UofL.
In a joint statement, the top administrators from the ACC’s current schools said: ”With the addition of the University of Louisville, the ACC continues to be well positioned for the future competing at the highest level in all facets of the collegiate experience. The ACC continues to be a vibrant conference that remains steadfast in its commitment to balancing academics and athletics.”
The news that the ACC leaders would consider adding a 14th member on Wednesday broke late Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, ESPN.com was reporting that UofL was likely to get the spot, though UConn and Cincinnati were also possibilities.
Soon after, news reports stated that UofL had, in fact, been selected. WDRB reported that Louisville men’s basketball coach sent a text message early Wednesday, stating simply that “We r in.”
The move offers UofL a new sense of stability — a level of comfort rocked in recent years with other conferences taking away teams from the Big East, observers say. On Wednesday, WDRB’s Eric Crawford — a former Cardinals beat writer for The Courier-Journal — wrote:
The move now allows U of L to operate without fear of being immediately shut out of college football’s championship playoff system, due to go online in 2014. It also gives U of L football a tie-in with the Orange Bowl, a piece of what should be a much more lucrative conference television contract and membership in what will become the nation’s most powerful men’s basketball conference, with such schools as North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, N.C. State and others.
Public officials have weighed in, too, with enthusiasm.
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader and a University of Louisville supporter, issued this statement on the Cardinals’ move to the Atlantic Coast Conference:
“It’s been my privilege during my career to get to know a number of people in all walks of life who have been highly successful. However, I am hard pressed to think of a more conspicuous example of success than what Tom Jurich has accomplished for UofL athletics in the last 15 years. Membership in the ACC is the culmination of his extraordinary leadership.”
And Mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement:
“This is a fantastic development for the university, the city, and the state. All of the hard work over the years from UofL Athletics on the fields and courts and the Administration with academic achievement has paid off big time!”