Maryland vs Louisville: Is It Academics vs Athletics?

When Maryland leaves for the B1G in July 2014 the ACC will no doubt lose an excellent academic institution and a founding member. A lot has already been discussed on this topic but what will the ACC actually gain and lose when the University of Louisville comes in as their replacement? What are the real athletic and academic differences between the two schools?

We know that the Maryland athletic department was cutting sports to make up for budgetary shortfalls while Louisville athletics are thriving. In fact the U of L basketball program is the most profitable program in the country. It is even more profitable than any old Big East, Pac 10 or ACC football programs, and this before their move to the new Yum Center. Looking at their athletic budgets, there is no comparison. For the 2011-12 season, Maryland showed a budget of $57.5 million while Louisville’s was $84.4 million. This even surpassed the ACC top budget of $ 81.4 million posted by Florida State and with U of L only making $3.2 million from the Big East. In 2013 the Louisville basketball program profited $26.9 million. By comparison their in state rival, the University of Kentucky, only profited about half that much.

Over the last ten years the Maryland men basketball team went 208-127 with an average RPI around 55 while playing a strength of schedule around 42 while going 25-52 against the RPI top 25. They won the ACC conference tournament in 2004 and were conference champions in 2010 but they never even made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

During the same time period, Louisville went 266-91 with an average RPI around 25 against a strength of schedule around 27 while going 48-41 against the RPI top 25. Louisville was also conference champions in 2005 (CUSA), 2009 and in 2013 and were conference tournament champions in 2005 (CUSA), 2009, 2012 and in 2013. They made the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament in 2008 and in 2009, made the Final 4 in 2005 and 2012 and won the national championship in 2013. Louisville is one of four ACC schools (Duke, Syracuse & Pitt) and nine nationally who have won 20 or more games each year for the past ten years.

The U of L women basketball team has advanced to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 in four of the last six years and were national runner ups in 2009 and in 2013.

Over the past four seasons the Maryland football team has gone 17-32 while winning only six games over the past two seasons. They posted a loss in their only BCS bowl, the 2002 Orange Bowl.

The Louisville Cardinals football team has gone 29-22 over the past four years while going 23-14 over the last three under head coach Charlie Strong. They have shared in the conference championship the last two years and have won both of their BCS bowl games, the 2007 Orange Bowl and the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

Maryland football attendance has been around 36,000 while U of L averaged over 50,000 last season. While Maryland has to compete with the Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens and the Baltimore Orioles, Louisville is top dog in its market. The Louisville TV market has been the nation’s top market for college basketball for the last ten years. The Cardinals are also third nationally in basketball attendance, trailing only Kentucky and Syracuse.

By means of budgets and from an athletic standpoint the Cardinals are far superior when compared to Maryland. Over the last six years U of L is the only school to reach both the men and women basketball Final Four (each have done it twice), a BCS bowl (done it twice), the College World Series (done it twice) and the men College Soccer Cup. Maryland cant even come close to those athletic achievements. Adding Louisville to the ACC Atlantic division will make it one of the toughest divisions in football. For instance, if the Cards were in the ACC this upcoming season the Atlantic division would hold three pre season top 25 teams (U of L, Florida St & Clemson).

Where Maryland holds an advantage over Louisville is in academics, but is it really such a huge advantage as most assume? By the numbers the differences do appear huge. Maryland holds a top 60 academic ranking while U of L is 160th. Maryland is ranked top 25 in almost every category while U of L best rankings are 68th in law, 26th in part time law, 35th in Industrial/Manufacturing/System Engineering, the 76th medical school: research, 45th audiology and 37th in social work. Maryland has an undergraduate enrollment of 26,000+ compared to 22,000 for U of L.

How does U of L stack up with the rest of the ACC? Lets look at Duke (among the top ranked in the ACC) and at NC State (the lowest ranked in the ACC). The four year graduation rate for Duke is 89%, 44% for NC State and 22% for U of L. Duke has an endowment around 5.7 billion, NC State around 617 million and around 769 million for U of L. Their acceptance among applicants for Duke is 14%, 52% for NC State and 73% for U of L. The ACC six year graduation rate is 81.2% while U of L is 51%. There is no doubt that U of L has plenty of room for improvement.

Despite this, U of L is not void of any academic positives. For instance, while the Louisville basketball team has had great success on the court they have had even greater success in the classroom. The team posted a 3.41 GPA for the 2012 fall semester, 15 of the 17 on the roster achieved a 3.0 or better. They have hovered around a 3.0 GPA for nine straight semesters, including a 3.16 GPA for the fall 2011 semester and a 3.13 for the spring of 2012 semester. A dozen Cardinals have a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or better and the team has earned 2010-11 and 2011-12 Big East Conference Team Academic awards which are given to the highest collective GPA in each of the BE 24 sports. Also U of L was recognized in June by the NCAA  for student athlete academics achievement in being a top academic sports program in the nation, an honor given to the top 10% of all teams in their sport.

Now lets focus on non athletic academics and what the ACC has to offer U of L. The US News academic rankings are heavily skewed towards schools with a tradition of academic excellence so it takes awhile to move up the list. Being associated with the ACC will help accelerate Louisville already upward trajectory and improve its reputation. As conferences often collaborate academically this potentially means faculty from other ACC schools will visit and teach at U of L, and vice versa. Playing in North Carolina, Virginia, and through out the ACC footprint gives U of L more exposure in parts of the country where they haven’t treaded much recently, leading to more applicants from those areas. No doubt U of L benefits from being in these markets and by being associated with the ACC because their reputation improves and this could also help in fund raising.

U of L also has allot to offer the ACC. Louisville fares well in Fullbright Scholars and in research endeavors when compared to the ACC. U of L is one of the fastest growing research universities in the nation. The collaboration between schools could open the door for academic research partnerships in areas such as cancer care, business & entrepreneurism and in engineering. These partnerships could lead to increased grant funding for collaborating research at the schools involved.

There are similarities in research focuses between U of L and Boston College as well. Such as both have an emphasis on researching the aging care field and issues facing older people.

The U of L medical school has a history of making world headlines in breakthrough medical procedures. One example of this came on January 14, 1999 with the first hand transplant that achieved prolonged success. The procedure was performed in conjunction with a group of doctors from U of L and Jewish Hospital in Louisville. This Louisville group went on to perform the first five hand transplants in the US and had performed 9 as of 2008.

On July 2, 2001 surgeons from U of L implanted the first completely implantable artificial heart which completely replaced the function of the human heart. The AbioCor Implantable Replacement Heart was a battery operated device that improved the quality of the patients life by allowing them to remain active and productive. Artificial hearts in the past had pumps as large as washing machines which kept patients immobile and though prolonged life they really didn’t improve quality of life.

So what does the ACC gain and lose on July 1, 2014? Its clear that it will replace a once proud but currently struggling athletic program with one that is thriving and achieving its greatest triumphs in all sports. It is replacing a financially impotent athletic program with one that is turning great profits. These are clear improvements for the ACC and clearly are wins.

Maryland is an excellent academic institution and has had a great history in the ACC. While U of L can not replace the storied history of Maryland in the ACC it can create a new one for it self. Looking at the academic rankings and its a huge loss for the ACC but if you look beyond the rankings you see a proud university that is poised for greatness in the future. I don’t know if U of L will ever reach the lofty rankings of Duke or even Maryland but there is no reason to doubt that it wont be the lowest ranked university in the ACC for to long. Already this year U of L is seeing benefits from its partnership with the ACC as they received a substantial increase in their applicants. This allows them to be more selective in their enrollments. In my opinion, history will show this is a clear victory for the ACC on all counts. Looking into the future, this wasn’t academics vs athletics. History and tradition will be the only loser here.

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6 responses to “Maryland vs Louisville: Is It Academics vs Athletics?

  1. I’m not sure why conferences are always bringing up the academic rankings of the various member schools in their “sports” conference. Please don’t misunderstand me, this is not a knock on either school nor this article. I’m just a little tired of each conference now measuring each other academic wise. It just seems kinda pointless.

    For example, the B1G are always pointing to the CIC as a great carrot for schools that are a part of their conference. Well guess what? Its just a social club. The CIC neither distributes research funds nor assist with lobbying for research grants for the member schools. In essence, its each school competing against each other, just like in sports. Hard to believe right? Well here is a source, from a B1G blog no less:

    http://www.maizenbrew.com/2010/6/10/1511330/big-ten-expansion-and-the-cic-are

    See for yourself folks. Everyone have a good day. :-)

    • I don’t mind academics playing a roll in expansion and in conferences identities as long as it’s not the only factor. Academics are important since schools within conferences do collaborate on research projects and such which does effect grants and fund raising. In this case Louisville wins from being apart of the ACC which leads to an ACC victory.

    • I would say academics are important to the conferences that have a foundaition in them. Among the major conferences those are the Big Ten, the ACC, and the PAC 12. Let’s put it this way, you can laugh about academics in conferences, but it is one of the primary things that keep ACC schools from wanting to join the SEC, and kept Texas from having any interest in it either. It is a strength of the conference.
      The irony is I attended Maryland and am from Louisville, and a Louisville fan. From an undergraduate perspective I think many schools are overrated in terms of academics: I took classes at Towson University which I found much more challenging and beneficial than those I took in College Park. Anyway for the conferences that stress academic prestige, there is a balance to be achieved. Yeah it may just be a social club, but our country is run by social clubs, so outright dimissing it is not fair.
      Anyway thanks for inviting us to the club. We promise not to let you down!

  2. The ACC is getting a proven winner and academic up-and-comer in Louisville. A great fan base with a tradition of following their teams and supporting their conference. You will not find a more loyal and invested fanbase for college athletics. Academic association with the fine institutions in the ACC will quickly move the meter in rankings. This is a great fit, and will improve over time.

  3. Pingback: ACC Week in Review: July 21, 2013 | ATLANTIC COAST CONFIDENTIAL

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