It may be the offseason but there's plenty of exciting stuff happening around UofL athletics these days. From conference changes to basketball recruiting, there never seems to be a dull moment.
Here are some interesting tidbits we've picked recently.
- The word we've received from several of our most trusted sources close to the program is that the Cards will soon be a member of the Big East Conference. That part apparently is not the question. The question appears to be what will the Big East look like when the Cards arrive? Some sources close to the Cardinal program believe the chances that the Big East remains intact and breaks away from the catholic playing basketball-only schools are quite strong. And with savvy Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese making his pitch to league members this weekend the odds of brokering a deal with Miami could quickly improve. With or without Miami, though, the Cards appear on the fast track as the Big East's newest member!
- Cardinal Park and UofL athletic facilities are coming along quite nicely. Ground will be broken next fall on a slightly scaled down version of the natatorium for the swimming and diving teams and the Board of Trustees are expected to approve a land swap and construction of the Cards new baseball stadium at its June 10th meeting. Also, the 40 bed Minardi Hall, which will house the UofL Men's basketball team is set to be completed by the beginning of the 2003-04 school year and the University is currently negotiating to buy the Allgood property just north of PJCS that will be used for intramural fields and to improve the asthetics of the south end of campus.
- Talk of a new basketball arena could heat later this year and the most likely location for construction appears to be at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center. Plans would call for the removal of old Cardinal Stadium which would be replaced by a new arena to house the UofL basketball program. The idea is to create a strong southern flank to the campus, extending down the Central Avenue expansion from Churchill Downs, to the new baseball stadium, passing PJCS and over to the new arena at the fairgrounds. Word is CHD's would love to construct a $300 million dollar hotel complex complete with land based casino type gambling. But don't expect legislative approval for that any time soon.
- Basketball prospect J.R. Smith seems to be reopening his recruitment. ITV has learned that N.C. State is making a hard push to get involved with the talented 6'6 forward from Newark St. Benedict Prep. Smith earlier told ITV that he would be making a visit to Louisville in late May and would likely commit either on his visit or before. Stay tuned.
- Patrick Sparks enjoyed a good visit to the UofL campus earlier this week and had an hour long private conversation with Coach Pitino about transferring to Louisville. Shortly after Sparks returned home from his visit, Steve Sparks, the players father, indicated a decision could be forthcoming very soon. Then UK coach Tubby Smith made repeated calls to the Sparks house Wednesday night and apparently persuaded the talented guard to hold off on committing to UofL and make a visit to UK over the weekend. And from all indications, Sparks has indeed postponed any commitment to UofL and will make the trip to Lexington to talk with the Wildcats about what they have to offer. Stay tuned.