5:23 PM EST, November 29, 2012
Do we want to join a club that won't have us as a member?
Connecticut awoke Wednesday to the news that the University of Connecticut had been snubbed by the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC had an opening that UConn coveted and made a strong case for, but instead the invitation went to Louisville.
That and $15 million in budget cuts announced by the governor made for a tough day in Greater Storrs.
But the sun came up Thursday; life went on. There are more pressing problems in the world. Many close to UConn think the school will eventually get an invitation to join the ACC.
Let us hope, given the frenetic, whack-a-mole pace of conference realignment, that that is still a good thing.
The ACC's decision comes with some ironies. UConn has much the stronger academic program, which the ACC used to tout as a conference strength. UConn is in the Northeast television market, in a state that is on the actual Atlantic Coast. Adding UConn to the ACC would rekindle the popular regional rivalry with Boston College.
But the decision to go for Louisville was apparently based on the Cardinals having a stronger football program — despite the fact that UConn beat Louisville last Saturday.
Nonetheless, Louisville has had top-flight, well-supported and revenue-producing football and basketball programs for a long time, with state-of-the-art facilities. UConn's football program is still a fledgling in Division I-A (even though it's able to beat Louisville).
Lew Perkins Was Right
Former UConn Athletic Director Lew Perkins made the argument in the mid-1990s that the school would need a stronger football program to protect its basketball program. For those of us who didn't follow him at the time, this apparently is what he meant. The upgraded UConn football program has generally done very well, but is still not the sole reason for living that college football is in some parts of the country.
The UConn men's basketball program, on the other hand, has developed a fanatical following. But its future is uncertain with the retirement of coach Jim Calhoun. The ACC does not have the equal of the UConn women's basketball program.
Louisville also may have had a bargaining chip that UConn didn't have, which was interest from another conference, the Big 12. There is strong speculation that Louisville had to be asked to the prom this week, and that UConn would be there as a back-up, sitting by the phone charger.
In such a situation, all one can do is work to get better. UConn President Susan Herbst struck the right tone, expressing disappointment but urging the UConn community to keep improving academics — its main reason for being, let's recall — and athletics. She is confident the conference alignment business will work itself out and that UConn will have a chair when the music stops.
How it will work out remains to be seen and is a matter of national speculation. What if, say, North Carolina and Duke left the ACC for the Big Ten? What if the ACC's big football schools left for the Southeast Conference? What if Louisville decides to go to the Big 12?
It's all kind of crazy, but here's a potentially amusing scenario. The several teams that have bolted, or are in the process of bolting, from the Big East must pay multimillion-dollar exit fees. The remaining schools are supposed to share the money. What if Louisville pays UConn's way into the ACC?
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