The email machine is smoking with lots of questions, so I’ll bat a few of them around . . .
Q: What do the day’s events mean for U of L?
A: Hate to say it, but we really don’t know yet. Frankly, we don’t know what the day’s events mean for Nebraska yet, except that it is burning its Big 12 bridges before having a public invitation to the Big Ten in hand (and private invitations are worth nothing until the ink is dry on some kind of agreement). If I were Notre Dame, I’d call the Big Ten tomorrow and say, “We’re in, but only if we’re the only ones. We don’t want to share revenue 16 ways.” And I’m telling you, if that condition were made, Nebraska would be left with its huskers dangling in the breeze. So we need to continue to wait to see what develops with Notre Dame. That’s the ball to keep your eye on.
But back to the original question, we still don’t know yet what it means for the Big East. I’m still not convinced Syracuse would leave, even if invited. I think there might be a fight to be had if that happened, within the Syracuse community and leadership. Maybe I’m wrong. But if Syracuse and Rutgers were to leave, I don’t know that the Big East could overcome it. Syracuse is one of the foundation blocks of the league, and I just don’t see the league being able to replace it — unless it went west and got Kansas.
In the end, U of L’s fate still is very much up in the air, because I still think there’s a chance the Big East escapes with the ability to move forward.
Q: Is this move to 16-team megaconferences inevitable?
A: If the Big Ten and Pac 10 go there, then I imagine it is. I still don’t think the logistics of a 16-team football league have sunk in with anyone. Do you do two eight-team divisions? If so you’ll play some conference opponents just once a decade. Do you do four four-team quads? If so, you’ll still go three years without playing some conference opponents, and you’ll confuse everyone in the process.
Let’s look at what could be one 8-team SEC East scenario: Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Kentucky. Look again at those first five names. Every year, one of those five is going to finish fifth in their division or worse. And how is that going to fly? The money is nice, but it can’t always be about the money. Ask U of L basketball fans how it felt to be one of the most profitable programs in the country this year.
The math of this thing is always going to be the same — half your teams are going to lose every week. If you pack your conference with stars, some people are going to start losing that aren’t used to it.
Q: What about Louisville to the SEC? Would Kentucky allow it? What is the voting process?
A: It’s way too early to start wondering about the political maneuvering on that one. The SEC requires a vote of nine league presidents for a new member to be added, so UK really isn’t in a position to stop it, unless it can exert some pressure on the rest of the league. That would mean showing some influence that I don’t believe it has. But I can already tell you, I don’t see Kentucky’s legislature going to bat for U of L the way Texas’ did for Baylor, or the way Virginia’s did for Virginia Tech when the ACC expansion took place. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Athletically, I think Louisville fits in the SEC, with the exception of football. But still, they’re a better football fit than Vanderbilt. And the stadium can still expand. Louisville is centrally enough located that every SEC game it played would be a sellout, if only from traveling fans from visiting programs. But again, I think a U of L-SEC scenario is highly unlikely. I heard nobody talking Louisville at the SEC meetings in Destin last week.
Q: If the SEC goes to the ACC to expand, isn’t that where Louisville has to end up.
A: Understand, nobody has to end up anywhere. But I would think that the ACC, if it lost three or four high profile members, would be a lot less, shall we say, exclusive, than it has been in the past. West Virginia would be the first new school in, and is the best positioned for that move. Pittsburgh, if it doesn’t go to the Big Ten, would be the next. Louisville’s problem was that it parted on bad terms with Duke in that football lawsuit, and I’m not sure how much support it would have among the ACC presidents. It would still take a sales job to get in, but I think it could.
Q: Why is Kentucky playing a basketball game in Freedom Hall next year? Will it ever play in the new arena?
A: UK has, I believe, played at least one game in Freedom Hall every year since it opened, and will continue to do so. UK won a national championship in the building, and has a history there of its own. The UK-Notre Dame series enjoyed its heyday in the building. As for the KFC Yum! Center, I don’t expect UK ever to play there except in NCAA Tournament play (which it is eligible to do) and when it visits the University of Louisville. U of L holds the power of scheduling for the facility during the basketball months, and I just don’t see how it would hand the building over. Moreover, by contract, U of L signs and banners may not be covered up for any event without U of L’s permission. The contract makes this arena a de facto U of L basketball building for the months between October and April. The building will host UK events, and should make a bid for the SEC Tournament. But other than that, UK likely won’t be there as the home team.