Three scenarios for UofL's conference future

Besides staying to rebuild the Big East following the recent departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two other conference scenarios seem possible for Louisville's future. examines the possibilities.

Follow MikeHughes on Twitter

Scenario One

Louisville, along with West Virginia, Cincinnati, USF, TCU, Rutgers, and maybe UConn, stay joined at the hip and help rebuild Big East football. That means quickly expanding with teams like Army, Navy and/or Air Force. It could also mean a second wave of expansion that includes ECU and UCF.

While there are some respectable football programs in that list, it looks an awful lot like the league Louisville left six years ago – Conference USA. I'm not sure that's the sort of lineup Louisville officials envisioned when they decided to invest $72 million on a recent upgrade of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Another potential problem with this scenario is a continued affiliation with Big East basketball-only schools Georgetown, Providence, DePaul, St. John's, Seton Hall, Marquette, Notre Dame and Villanova. Those schools have been viewed as an obstacle to football progress in the Big East for decades, and that's not likely to change if Louisville elects to help rebuild the league. The Big East is still headquartered in Providence, and John Marinatto, a Providence alum, remains the league commissioner.

Publicly, UofL officials are on board with the plan to rebuild the Big East, but you have to wonder if that's really the case behind the scenes? Staying in the Big East is a decent option because the league will remain an AQ conference through 2014, but if Louisville hopes to continue its ambitious rise nationally they can't get stuck in a league consisting of football-only service academies, current C-USA programs and a bunch of Catholic basketball-only programs, can they?

Scenario Two

Now that the Pac-12 has nixed plans to add Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, it appears the Big 12 has new life. With nine remaining members following the departures of Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M, the Big 12 needs to make several needed reforms (removal of commissioner Dan Beebe, hard and fast rules for the Texas' Longhorn Network) and recommit to one another.

If they accomplish that, and it won't be easy, the next step for the Big 12 will be to expand its ranks. The question: How many teams would the league look to add? One? Three? More?

Several reports this morning indicate that BYU is a top Big 12 target for expansion. Big East members Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati also could be prime targets for the league if it decided to become a 12-member league and hold a football championship game again.

Would Big 12 membership be an attractive option for Louisville? If the Cardinals had an iron-clad agreement that Texas and Oklahoma would remain in the league for at least five-years, which the Associated Press reported the two schools would soon do, it's hard to believe any Big East school wouldn't find a nine team league with Texas and Oklahoma more suitable to one restocked with service academies and/or C-USA call-ups.

The other key question about this scenario: Would Louisville object to joining a league where one member (Texas) had its own network (LHN) that provided unequal revenue distribution? That's a question I posed to Louisville AD Tom Jurich Saturday in Lexington. He didn't really tip his hand with his response, though as one knowledgeable source reminded me Wednesday morning Louisville's already been in that position with Notre Dame and the Irish won't even play the Cardinals.

"That's something that has to be ironed out," Jurich said when asked about Texas and the Longhorn network. "It's far too premature to be talking about that right now. We've had a lot of discussion over the past several years about what the landscape would look like. We want to make sure we're in the middle of that landscape. That's been my number one goal."

Of the three scenarios for Louisville's conference future this one is worth watching extremely closely for further developments.

Scenario Three

It appeared that Missouri had emerged as the choice to join Texas A&M in the SEC, but the Tigers conditional offer appears to be tied to the demise of the Big 12, which doesn't seem as likely now as it did on Monday, when the boards at Texas and Oklahoma granted officials at those schools authority to pursue PAC-12 membership.

If Missouri remains in the Big 12 – and that seems probable given the most recent developments – who will the SEC target to become their 14th member? West Virginia doesn't seem likely after being rejected earlier this week.Might Louisville become a prime SEC target if Missouri and West Virginia aren't options for the league?

Sure Louisville doesn't add a new television market for the SEC (though I'm not sure that's a huge deal for a league that plays so many games on national TV), and there's that "gentleman's agreement" not to add teams from existing membership states, right?

But Louisville would appear a highly attractive option for the SEC because of its geographical location, outstanding facilities, top-notch leadership, and across-the-board athletic success. If the SEC can't raid the ACC for its 14th member – and Oklahoma isn't a possibility - Louisville might be the leagues next best option.

Besides, what readily available program can boast athletic revenues approaching $75 million annually and has been to the NCAA men's basketball Final Four, college baseball World Series, women's basketball Final Four, a BCS football game and the College Cup soccer championship in the past six years? I'm not sure one exists outside Louisville.

This scenario might not be as likely as the first two, but it's not something I'd completely dismiss or discount altogether, as some local talking heads have already done.

Discuss: Cardinal Confidential

Cardinal Authority Top Stories