Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford spoke with local and national media Tuesday about the addition of Louisville to the ACC. Swofford didn't mince words, calling the addition a "landmark moment for our league."
Swofford said, "This is a landmark moment for our league and our schools and our alumni and our fan bases as we extend the warmest welcome to the University of Louisville as they join the Atlantic Coast Conference. Two men that I have such great respect for I'd like to come up and stand by the easel here to commemorate this moment and this day. President (James) Ramsey and Athletic Director Jurich, where this University and where this program has come under the leadership of these two gentlemen, it has truly been phenomenal to watch, and for the longest time I was watching it and appreciating it from afar. Now I and everybody else in the Atlantic Coast Conference get to watch it and appreciate it with you as a member of our family."
Swofford and ACC officials were treated like royalty while in town for the July 1 celebration. The day included a massive luncheon for University of Louisville employees, a press conference, visits to local landmarks and a celebration at Fourth Street Live! that included several thousand fans.
"As we continue on our upward momentum... both athletically and academically, I can think of no greater home or neighborhood that we would like to be associated with and be part of than the Atlantic Coast Conference," UofL President Dr. James Ramsey said.
For Louisville, July 1 was the culmination of years of travels through six different conferences starting with the Ohio Valley to the Missouri Valley, the Metro Athletic, Conference USA, the Big East, the American Athletic Conference and now to the ACC.
"It really didn't sink in to me, John, until this morning at 5 a.m.," Jurich said. "I watched the news, and it says that we were in the league because I was in bed before midnight, and it really hit hard, and the appreciation for you and all the Council of Presidents and all of our colleagues and athletic directors, I can't thank you enough for making this moment possible."
Jurich and the Cardinals have moved all 23 sports to the ACC and will compete as a full member immediately. Swofford noted that adding Louisville not only makes the league more competitive in basketball, but a host of other sports as well. The Cardinals won 14 league titles last season in the AAC and Big East.
"The University of Louisville brings to the ACC an institution and an athletic program with tremendous upward momentum," Swofford said. "It brings a dynamic city and a rabid, large and passionate fan base, and quite frankly, I know of no other collegiate athletic program that has progressed in the last 15 years as much as this one. It takes great leadership and continuity for that to happen."
Swofford also noted that the addition of Louisville gave the ACC the largest population footprint of any league in the nation. He said the league is poised to be a major player in college athletics for many years to come.
"From an athletic perspective, there's much to be excited about in this league. The ACC is coming off a great year, capturing five National Championships, including Florida State winning the final BCS title," Swofford said. "In addition, Clemson won its BCS game over Ohio State, becoming the Orange Bowl champion. We had an NCAA record 11 ACC football programs appear in postseason bowl games and finish the year with winning records.
"In terms of basketball, I think it's more than fair to say from an historical and success standpoint, we are now the strongest collection of basketball programs that have ever been assembled in one conference. The ACC is home to five of the top 12 and seven of the top 45 winningest basketball programs in the history of men's college basketball, and we will have four of the five active Hall of Fame coaches on the sidelines this year. With the addition of Louisville, three of the last six national champions in men's basketball come from the Atlantic Coast Conference membership.
"ACC women's basketball has also enjoyed a great amount of success and this past season was no exception with eight NCAA Tournament teams and two Final Four participants, and certainly Louisville's women's basketball program knows that territory quite well.
"While the addition of Louisville enhances the ACC's highly competitive football and basketball programs, it also brings excitement to our Olympic sports programs, which already consistently rank second to none."
Jurich noted his coaches understand the move to the ACC is a big step up in competition for most sports.
"For us, when the commissioner called us November 28 of 2012 to invite us into the league, we started that day," Jurich said. "We started preparing that day in every sport, because we didn't just want to come in the league. We knew the challenges that were in front of us, but we wanted to make sure we were set with our resources, set with our coaches, our support staffs, our academic training to make sure we could come in and compete. I'm not naïve enough to think we're going to go in and win handfuls and handfuls of championships, although that's going to be our goal, but we want to make sure that we're prepared to compete."