In the wake of the latest -- and surprising -- shakeup in college conferences, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino can't understand why more leagues aren't knocking on UofL's door. And he probably isn't alone.
In the most recent development, Maryland joined joined the Big Ten Monday, leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference in a move driven by the school's budget problems. Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, which was founded in 1953. The Terps eliminated seven sports programs earlier this year, and president Wallace D. Loh said the shift to the Big Ten could provide enough of a windfall to restore some of those sports. Loh said the potential money to be made in the Big Ten was more significant than the $50 million exit fee from the ACC.
Rutgers is expected to follow suit by Tuesday, leaving the Big East and making the Big Ten an even 14 schools. For both schools, the move should come with long-term financial gain. The Big Ten reportedly paid its members $24.6 million in shared television and media rights revenues this year.
It's the latest in a long line of blows for the Big East. West Virginia bolted from the Big East for the Big 12 this season, and Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame are all leaving for the ACC. Furthermore, Connecticut has also expressed a desire to join the ACC>
The Big East's exit fee is $10 million, but the league also requires a 27-month notification period for departing members. That means Rutgers will not be able to join the Big Ten until 2015 without working out some kind of deal with the Big East.
All of which has Pitino scratching his head. He can't figure out why UofL isn't attracing more interest from any of the BCS conferences.
Here is an edited version of what Pitino had to say about the situation during Monday's press conference:
What does the Big Ten expansion means for Louisville?--"I really don't know. I'd be guessing. You all heard the commissioner say on Big East Media Day that with his research all around expansion was over. And all of a sudden, it's not over. So I don't know what to make of it. Not too many things catch me by surprise in this day and age, but that caught me off guard. Quite frankly, it's something you didn't expect that Maryland would leave the ACC."
Does he see the Big East remaining viable?--"I don't know. I don't think we have much of a choice, so it better be viable. Some of us don't have choices and somewhere along the line all those Catholic schools may just get tired of all this nonsense and say, 'Listen, we've had enough of you football schools; we're going to form our own great basketball league.' That's the danger of it all, that the Catholic schools don't get fed up with all of this and say, 'Let's just have a great basketball league. You football people do what you want.'
"When a school like Maryland can pay a $50 million exit fee and say, that's not really much because in five years we'll pay it off and it's really not that much money. When you talk about $50 million not being that much money, life has changed for all of us.
"I think the thing for us, the University of Louisville, I haven't come across a school like this in a long time that has so much to offer and such little interest by people. The University of Louisville, the SEC should be after them, the ACC should be after them, the Big Ten, the Big 12. I think it's such a hidden jewel that people don't realize that we probably have top to bottom the best overall facilities in college athletics.
"(College sports) is what we're all about here. We all tune into TV for it. So to me this is the greatest jewel in college athletics. From the ACT going from like 19 and change to 24 1/2 as an average, the academic prowess has been off the charts, the facilities off the charts, the amount of money we generate from basketball and football is incredible.
"Everyone knows we have one of the brightest ADs in the game. This place is dynamite.So I sit back right now and as a bystander who has a stake in this, I can't believe. . .I personally just don't get it. I don't get the miss of Louisville and nobody talking about Louisville. I don't understand this whole scenario. I want to be in the Big East forever, but if I'm the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville is the first school I would even think about. I think the Big 12 missed the boat.
"For us, it's not a fun experience right now for something so grand as the University of Louisville. I wish we would just settled in the Big East or something. Every week I wake up, I hear conference expansion is over, and then it starts up again."