UofL, Big East locked in holding pattern

As the conference landscape shifting nationwide takes a collective deep breath, Louisville finds itself in a virtual holding pattern – for the moment.

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As the conference landscape shifting nationwide takes a collective deep breath, Louisville finds itself in a virtual holding pattern – for the moment.

The Cardinals remain members of a league teetering on the brink after the departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. One or two more key defections could spell doom for the Big East, sending the remaining members scrambling for their lives – as if they aren't already.

For a school like Louisville, staying behind in a league rebuilt around football-only service academies like Air Force and Navy and non-BCS call-ups ECU/Temple/UCF isn't an ideal proposition, especially given a recent $72 million expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

But the Cardinals don't really have much choice in the matter unless another BCS league, perhaps the Big 12, comes calling with an invitation. Until that time, UofL president James Ramsey and AD Tom Jurich find themselves playing a waiting game in the Big East.

The situation in the Big East is tenuous at best and it seems the remaining football members are all looking for a quick out.

UConn president Susan Herbst has made it clear her university intends to follow Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. The problem is, it doesn't appear the ACC has any intention of inviting UConn or Rutgers, unless they can convince Notre Dame or Texas - unlikely, at best - to join the league. Herbst issued the following statement yesterday, never mentioning the Big East once in her 83-word statement:

"The past several days have magnified the period of instability that exists today in the world of college athletics. I want to say thank you to all of our loyal supporters and fans of UConn and our athletic programs for their patience during this time. Please know that we will always do what is in the best interests for the University of Connecticut. We remain committed to our ideals and principals in intercollegiate athletics and will continue to achieve excellence academically and athletically."

West Virginia AD Oliver Luck issued a statement similar in tone to Herbt's. West Virginia has been angling hard for an SEC invitation:

"President [James] Clements and I represented West Virginia University at last night's Big East meeting in New York. The group concluded the meeting with a strategy to recruit top level BCS-caliber institutions that match the league's strong athletic and academic histories and traditions. As I stated before, WVU is an excellent flagship, land-grant university, with national-caliber athletic and academic programs. We are, and will remain, a national player in college athletics. The conference office will coordinate any further discussion on this issue."

So much for Big East unity and commitment coming out of Tuesday night's meeting in New York? But that shouldn't be unexpected for a league that exists on life-support.

Even without Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the Big East can remain viable without further departures. The league will maintain its AQ status through the 2013 season and Syracuse and Pittsburgh, unless something is negotiated, are bound to the Big East through 2014. If TCU still joins the league next season, and Navy and/or Air Force join, the league could compete with a 10 or more team-lineup the next few seasons. But that's assuming no further defections and Pittsburgh and Syracuse held to the letter of Big East law.

Though Jurich has been more low-key during this process than some of his Big East colleagues, Louisville's athletics leader has made clear that his program is open to all options outside the Big East, and the Cardinals, it figures, would carefully consider a move to a stabilized Big 12 with Texas and Oklahoma leading the way.

Whether or not that chance will represent itself remains the big question as Big 12 leaders conference Thursday, where they are expected to discuss expansion possibilities.

There's much uncertainty on the Great Plains in the wake of Oklahoma's flirtation with the PAC-12. Big 12 members, namely Oklahoma, are working through vast differences of opinion, mostly about Texas' behavior as a conference partner, particularly their insistence upon keeping all the revenue from their $300 million Longhorn Network, in an attempt to re-stabilize the league and move forward as a unified league in the future.

Oklahoma, which has serious grievances against Texas, has brought a list of demands to the table, including the removal of commissioner Dan Beebe. According to reports late Wednesday night, the Sooners will get their way as former Big 8 commissioner Chuck Neinas, who has connections to Jurich, will be named as Beebe's interim replacement.

Which programs the Big 12 will target for expansion remains uncertain. Thursday, the Big 12 presidents likely will discuss two expansion-related questions: How many teams the nine-member Big 12 wants to add. One? Three? Or more? Which teams to pursue as new members?

ESPN's Andy Katz reported Wednesday that BYU, Louisville and West Virginia were likely candidates. However, Oklahoma's faction seemed to be pushing TCU, which Texas has opposed, BYU and Air Force, who also has been mentioned as a candidate for the weakened Big East, through media outlets Thursday.

What will happen to the Big East? Will the Big 12 settle their differences and expand their league? If so, who will the Big 12 target as new members?

Stay tuned to InsideTheVille.com……

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