Local News
12:54 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Reaction to Louisville's ACC Move Positive Locally, Less So in N.C., Conn.

So the University of Louisville is moving its athletics programs to the Atlantic Coast Conference, leaving behind the hard scrabbled Big East and heading toward Tobacco Road and such.

The reaction has been positive in the 24 hours or so since the ACC's presidents and chancellors unanimously invited UofL -- except in certain pockets, specifically in Connecticut and in parts (but not all) of ACC country.

In and around Louisville, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, leading to downright gushing over Louisville's longtime athletics director, Tom Jurich.

Here's Pat Forde, the former Courier-Journal writer who now works for Yahoo.com:

Ultimately, the ACC dropped academic pretense and made an athletic decision. Louisville was the best choice.

That's hard to believe, given the department Tom Jurich took over 15 years ago. From C-USA outcast to the Big East to the ACC, he dragged a once-troubled program to where it never could have dreamed of being.

Meanwhile, WDRB's Rick Bozich talked to UofL athletics luminaries about the ACC move. Howard Schnellenberger, the UofL football coach who first gave the Cardinals a national profile, told Bozich that the coach's goal of winning a national title "lives on."

In North Carolina, where the ACC has four scools, the reaction wasn't quite as effusive.

Caulton Tudor, of the Raleigh News & Observer, argued that Louisville is at the moment a superior athletics program to Maryland, which recently left the ACC for the Big 10 and created the opening for Louisville to slide into the conference.

Tudor dismissed the academic concerns, noting that ACC athletics programs have been accused of sacrificing scholastics for sports in recent years.

Tudor adds this as a plus-one for the UofL addition:

Louisville might be second fiddle to Kentucky in basketball, but the SEC Wildcats’ comfort zone will be narrowed with the Cardinals in a basketball conference that includes Duke, UNC, Syracuse and N.C. State.

Not every coastal state type was so positive.

The Roaonke (Va.) Times' Mark Berman led his story on Louisville's arrival to their turf by pointing out this:

Conference officials love to stress about how important academics are when they discuss the addition of a new member.

Not this time.

Berman noted UofL's No. 160 ranking by the U.S. New & World Report -- particularly low for the ACC. And he pointed to a remark from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorpe during a conference call, in which he said the ACC's leaders wanted to add "the most exciting sports program that we could."

More concisely, Dale Gibson -- managing editor of the Triangle Business Journal in Raleigh, N.C., summed up the Louisville addition to the ACC this way:

* Athletically: A slight gain.

* Academically: A clear loss.

And what about the reaction from around UConn, which was also reportedly under consideration to be Maryland's ACC replacement?

From the Waterbury (Conn.) Republican-American:

This has to be a body blow to UConn supporters who scoffed at the idea that Louisville, an urban school of modest academic standing, would be picked before UConn.

Interestingly, the writer, Lee Lewis, scoffed at the notion that facilities played a role in the decision; he notes that UConn's football stadium is "beautiful" but "a little small" and that the Huskies' basketball arena is "functional." It's prudent to note: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium has 15,000 more seats than UConn's Rentschler Field, and most observers view the KFC Yum! Center as better than "functional."

The most sentimental observations came from a national political writer. The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman worked at The Courier-Journal and is a graduate of UofL's law school. He wrote about the university's long journey to this point:

... U of L's sports program has grown and moved from the MoVaC to the now-extinct Metro, to the now-wobbly Conference USA, to the Big East and now to (one has to hope) the summit. Along the way, the basketball team won two national championships.

Meanwhile, under aggressive local political and academic leadership, the university sprang to life academically and institutionally. The campus now is a lovely place, though many of the railroad tracks are still there. An ever-greater percentage of students live in an ever-expanding number of dorms. And the school is among the leaders in the country in the number of Fulbright scholarships received each year.