For the last several months, the Big 12 has been selling the rest of the country on the idea that they plan to expand their conference by two, or maybe four teams.
Media members have followed and written about every latest piece of information, and the potential candidates have made their cases for inclusion in every way imaginable. BYU has boasted about the fact that it has its own television market. Houston has made mention of everything from its location, to its support from league powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma, to its state of the art library. Memphis claimed FedEx might be able to sponsor the Big 12 title game. South Florida sent out a press release bragging about its academic prowess … and misspelled “research” in the second sentence of said release.
The Big 12 did nothing to subdue this madness. In fact, they seemed to spur it on.
The conference announced mystery press conferences that it would later cancel. There were reports of secret meetings with athletic directors and university presidents that no one could confirm. The Big 12 even announced “cuts” to its list of potential additions, a move eerily similar to those the sports world sees on a daily basis from attention-starved 16-year-old recruits.
Finally, a press conference to end the insanity was scheduled for Monday evening at 6:30.
The hours leading up to the “big” announcement were predictably drama-filled. There were reports that Houston had scheduled a follow-up press conference at 7:30. There was an image of a banner featuring both the Cincinnati logo and the Big 12 logo that had reportedly been ordered by UC’s president which went viral. Unnamed sources were quoted more liberally by the media than spokespersons for Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump’s respective campaigns.
When the dust finally settled, there was nothing. The Big 12’s big announcement was that there was no big announcement. The league would not be expanding, and the preceding five months had been a dog and pony show that had done nothing but further sully the conference’s already diminished reputation, and waste the time of all parties who found themselves involved.
Though never one to deny taking some joy from the misery of former conference rivals like Cincinnati, Connecticut and Memphis, I found myself feeling genuinely sorry for their fan bases on Monday. Empathy was another easy emotion to achieve, because, after all, Louisville fans have been exactly where they are before.
From 2010 to 2012, everyone in the Derby City had a source or a contact who had the inside scoop on what move UofL was about to make. Recruits said that Charlie Strong and his staff had told them that a Cardinal move to the Big 12 was imminent, some university employees came out and hinted the same. In the end, there was a very public two-horse race between West Virginia and Louisville to snag the one Big 12 spot available. Both sides lobbied effectively, and elected officials from both states even got into the act by making public statements. In the end, West Virginia won … at least for a very, very brief period of time.
Maryland’s decision to bolt for the Big 10 (which will never cease to be odd) opened up a place for Louisville in the ACC. It was a dream landing spot for a program which had never viewed the destination as a realistic possibility.
Three years later, it’s safe to say that the realization has lived up to the dream. UofL has retained its lofty status in sports like basketball and soccer, and now finds itself on an elevated and brighter stage when it comes to football, baseball, and its Olympic sports.
Life in the ACC will never be perfect, because life anywhere is never perfect. There will always be too many noon kickoffs, overly difficult basketball schedules, and officials at Clemson who refuse to call pass interference on the home team (or so I’ve heard). When stuff like that starts to make you upset, remember the alternative.
This certainly beats living and dying with hollow reports from anonymous sources and reading too much into internet images that may or may not have been photoshopped. Cheers to never having to live that life again.