Return to relevance

Whatever the measure - national polls, spring game attendance or recruiting success - it's clear that Charlie Strong is reestablishing Louisville as a nationally relevant program again.

With speculation about a potential move to the Big 12 likely to gain steam this summer, Charlie Strong 's efforts to return Louisville football to national relevancy continues to show significant signs of progress.

Though less than a month since Louisville wrapped up spring practice, it's clear that the Cardinals, co-Big East champions in 2011, will be heavy favorites to win their third Big East title since joining the league in 2005.

This week, Fox Sports ranked Louisville No. 14 nationally in their post-spring national power rankings. After posting back to back winning records in his first two years, Strong not only has Louisville positioned to regain supremacy in the Big East, but to make an impact in the national polls and the BCS race.

With 18 returning starters, Strong's Cardinals have the most returning talent in the Big East, the league's most dynamic offensive player (quarterback Teddy Bridgewater) and, unlike league contenders Rutgers and Pittsburgh, Strong's coaching staff returns largely intact for the third straight year. The Scarlet Knights and Panthers will be led by first year coaches after Greg Schiano left for the Miami Dolphins and Todd Graham went to Arizona State. A league schedule that includes four Big East home games, including Cincinnati and USF, also works in Louisville's favor.

National polls aren't the only measures of progress for Louisville's ascending football program. The Sports Business Journal announced this week that UofL's spring game attendance of 15,000 ranked in the Top 30 nationally ahead of traditional powers UCLA, Wisconsin and Miami.

UofL's spring game attendance figure, which was impacted by bad weather, would have tied for fourth with Kansas (15,000) in the Big 12 behind only Texas (46,000), Oklahoma (20,500) and Kansas State (18,000). Louisville's spring game attendance was better than several notable Big 12 programs, including Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech and West Virginia and was significantly higher than in-state rival Kentucky. Louisville's attendance tied with Rutgers for the top spot in the Big East.

And there's even more good news for Strong's program this week.

Louisville's 2013 recruiting class ranks No. 1 in the Big East in's newly released rankings, out-distancing other league members by a wide margin. With seven commitments, Strong's 2013 recruiting class sits just outside the national Top 25, checking in at No. 26 in the rankings. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh at No's. 46 and 47 nationally are a distant second and third in the Big East rankings.

UofL football hasn't been a factor nationally since nearly crashing the BCS championship game in 2006. While the 2012 football season is still nearly four months away, one fact is abundantly clear: Charlie Strong is reestablishing Louisville as a nationally relevant program once again.

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