Can ACC convince Notre Dame to join as full member?

Can ACC convince Notre Dame to join as full member? (November 20, 2012)

Penn State absolutely merits exploration. The Nittany Lions fit the ACC’s geographic footprint and have long football histories with current/future league members Pittsburgh, Boston College and Syracuse.

Moreover, Penn State surely resents the Big Ten fining the institution more than $50 million in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal. But given the NCAA’s $100-million fine in the same case, would Penn State walk away from the Big Ten’s unsurpassed television revenue, not to mention annual football games against Ohio State? Hard to imagine.

Still others have floated the SEC’s Kentucky or Vanderbilt. Though the Commodores are 7-4 this season, neither has football appeal, and neither would appease the ACC’s football wing.

Besides, hacking off SEC commissioner Mike Slive is probably not the way for the ACC to assure its stability. This because you just know Slive would counter, perhaps by courting ACC schools such as North Carolina State and/or Virginia Tech.

With 10 national basketball championships, three men and seven women, strong Olympic sports and a top-flight academic reputation (63rd in U.S News and World Report rankings), Connecticut clearly fits the ACC profile and would bail the Big East in a blink. There’s also a certain television network based in Bristol, Conn., that would approve of the Huskies.

But aside from a Fiesta Bowl appearance two years ago, after which coach Randy Edsall bolted for Maryland, UConn has little football cache. It’s also fair to wonder how far Huskies basketball will decline now that Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun has retired.

Which brings us to UConn’s Big East rival Louisville. South Florida and Cincinnati, also of the Big East, are getting some media run, but neither has the Cardinals' depth of assets.

Louisville offers national-championship pedigree in basketball and has finished no lower than 41st in the Directors’ Cup all-sports standings each of the last five years. The Cardinals have rabid support and cutting-edge facilities.

Football? Bobby Petrino coached Louisville to top-10 seasons in 2004 and ’06, and Charlie Strong has the Cardinals 9-1 and ranked 19th entering Saturday's game against UConn. The only ACC teams that have finished among the Associated Press top 10 in the last decade were Virginia Tech’s in 2004, ’05, ’07 and ’09.

Louisville also would solidify the ACC’s southern flank and bring the conference fiscal strength. The Cardinals reported $87.8 million in 2011-12 athletics revenue to the U.S. Department of Education, more than any ACC school – Florida State reported $81.4 million – and cleared $3.5 million in profit.

The issue with Louisville is academics. The ACC often boasts of its U.S. News rankings, and at No. 160, Louisville is far below No. 106 North Carolina State, the ACC’s lowest-rated school.

The Cardinals’ latest Graduation Success Rate for athletes is a solid 80 percent but lags behind all but three of the 12 current ACC members: Georgia Tech (76), N.C. State (77) and Florida State (78). The NCAA docked Louisville’s football program three scholarships last year for sub-par Academic Progress Rates, though that said,  low APRs rendered UConn ineligible for this season’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Reader’s Digest version: There is no perfect candidate.

After the 2012 campaigns, we’re used to it.

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