Mar 31, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Louisville Cardinals guard/forward Wayne Blackshear (25) dunks as Kentucky Wildcats forward Terrence Jones (3) looks on during the second half in the semifinals of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
Let's start the realignment talks back up again! Back in May Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said that the Big XII was, "in a good spot" but also said that they were open minded about expanding the Big XII. The truth of the matter is that, in the current state of college football, the Big XII cannot thrive with just ten schools. With conferences fighting to put their teams in the top four spots in the new playoff format the arguments against the Big XII will be, 1) the conference is watered-down with just 10 teams and 2) there is no-conference championship game.
While I do believe there is a legitimate counterargument to the "no championship game" allegation, there is absolutely no way to defend only ten conference teams when stacked up against the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 10. Ultimately the Big XII is going to have to address that and when they do (I believe it will be soon) Louisville will be waiting with bated breath.
Louisville made it no secret that they wanted to be the team that the Big XII picked to replace Missouri. Instead, the conference chose to pluck West Virginia out of the Big East leaving the Cardinals in a conference that not only lost the Mountaineers but Syracuse and Pitt as well. If Louisville wanted out before the purge there's no way that they won't want out now, even with the additions of Boise State, San Diego State and Memphis. When you look at what the Big East was and what it is now it just makes sense that Louisville still wants to bolt. Looking at the current landscape of the Big XII it also makes sense that Louisville become the newest member. Here's three reasons why.
1. It makes sense geographically - There are 1,200 miles between Norman, Oklahoma and Morgantown, West Virginia (even further for the Texas schools). That's a lot of miles to cover and a huge footprint for the Big XII Conference. The closest Big XII school to West Virginia is Iowa State which sits a little less than 900 miles away. There's being left out on an island and then there's the position in which West Virginia sets, completely isolated from the rest of the conference… I guess you could say they are on a deserted island of sorts.
Louisville, on the other hand, sits just a little more than halfway in between the majority of the Big XII schools and Morgantown. Adding the Cardinals would give the conference a stronger presence in the eastern part of the US as well as more recruiting ground in that part of the country. Teams have to travel that way to play anyway and Louisville would be a great midway point that would benefit every school in the Big XII.
2. It brings in new revenue - Anytime that you add a new market to your conference you put dollars in the pockets of the member schools. That's exactly what adding Louisville would do to the Big XII. Before you push back from your computer, throw your hands up in the air and shout, "this is Louisville were talking about!" you need to know something.
Louisville, Kentucky is the number one television market in the nation for college basketball. Oh yeah, you read that right. According to this report it isn't even close.
From November 11, 2011 through February 12, 2012 for all men's college basketball games on ESPN (a total of 93 games), Louisville stands as the top men's college basketball viewing market (of 56 metered markets nationwide).
According to Nielsen, Louisville retained the top spot from 2010-11 and has increased its rating five percent (4.4 to 4.6). The city doubles the rating of the No. 6 market, Charlotte, which has averaged a 2.3 rating thus far.
The top five markets are:
1. Louisville (4.6).
2. Greensboro-High Point (3.5).
3. Columbus (2.9).
4. Kansas City (2.7).
5. Raleigh-Durham (2.6).
By adding Louisville the Big XII would consist of two of the top four basketball television markets in the nation. Yes football is king but don't underestimate the dollars brought in by basketball, particularly in the top markets.
3. Louisville would make the Big XII one of the top basketball conferences in the nation - I believe that the Big XII bettered itself from a football standpoint by replacing Texas A&M and Missouri with West Virginia and TCU. We've talked about that time and again on this site and there's really no need to rehash the point.
However, at best, the conference maintained its position as a basketball conference by replacing a mediocre A&M program with a mediocre TCU program and a good Missouri program with a good WVU program. That's not to say that the Big XII is bad basketball, in fact track records prove otherwise, but if you add Louisville to the mix this conference takes his huge step up in basketball prestige. It would create a well-rounded conference that will be among the top in the country in basketball and football and could very well end up being the best overall athletic conference in the nation. Who wouldn't want that?