The Cardinals have not finished below 41st in the Directors’ Cup all-sports standings in the last five years and have made recent Final Four appearances in men’s and women’s basketball and men’s soccer. Louisville’s baseball team advanced to the 2007 College World Series.
The 1980 and ’86 national champions under Denny Crum and annual contenders under Rick Pitino, the Cardinals add to an embarrassment of ACC basketball riches that will include staples Duke and North Carolina, plus newcomers Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame.
But football generates 75-80 percent of television rights fees, so make no mistake, football was a driving force here. Cincinnati, UConn and Louisville have appeared in Bowl Championship Series games, but the Cardinals have been more consistent — they reached nine consecutive bowls from 1998 to 2006 and will play in their third straight this season, likely the Orange against the ACC champion if they defeat Rutgers on Thursday.
“If you look at what has been done over the last 15 months, the ACC has only gotten stronger with the additions of Louisville, Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse.” Swofford said.
Indeed, and swapping Maryland for Louisville is a wash. The ACC loses the Terps’ presence in the coveted Washington-Baltimore market but enters a new region that’s far more attuned to college sports. Louisville’s marquee sports and facilities are better than Maryland’s, and the trade, according to Swofford, will not affect terms of the ACC’s 15-year rights contract with ESPN.
With 14 members still for football, the conference has no reason to expand further, unless Notre Dame stunningly decides to forgo football independence. The league and ESPN continue to explore a potential ACC channel that would raise television revenue closer to that generated by other major conferences.
“It seems to be a very sexy thing in today’s world,” Swofford said of a channel, “but it has to be the right thing.”
Adding Louisville wasn’t sexy, but it was right.
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