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Louisville’s pre-ACC Options: Bring Back the Metro Conference

With all the focus on whether Notre Dame will follow the Catholic 7 into the new Big East for a year or be allowed to enter the ACC a year early, this observer turns his attention to what the University of Louisville will do (or be allowed to do) in light of the latest conference realignment development.

The worst-case scenario befell the Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut athletic programs. While each school was vying for the ACC’s glance in 2012, no one expected the possibility that there would be no home to return to if not selected.

While Louisville must come up with and be satisfied with a short-term solution, the Bearcats and Huskies are in a much worse position with no real future on any horizon.

Originally scheduled to officially enter the prestigious ACC in 2014, Louisville and its fans are quite content with that still being the case. However, the news that the Catholic 7 will compete in fall 2013 and take the Big East name with them arouses some understandable doubts about where the Cardinals will land in the interim.

This Confidential correspondent has pondered the many options available to all parties involved and believes one solution is tenable. A void will exist when/after the Catholic 7 take the Big East name and this means that the current member schools will need to either attach to another conference or come up with one of their own.

In my humble opinion, I believe the remaining schools should resurrect an idea whose time has come once again. Even though Louisville and Rutgers will be leaving for the ACC and Big Ten in 2014, I feel a viable option could be for them to help formulate a new version of the Metro Conference (Metro Collegiate Athletic Conference) for all sports.

At various points in time over the twenty year history of the Metro Conference from 1975 to 1995, Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, South Florida and Tulane were member schools. The league revolved around schools in metropolitan areas and eventually merged with the Great Midwest Conference to form Conference USA.

Although it disbanded, the conference had become a household name and boasted some other well-known member schools over the years, including Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Saint Louis and South Carolina.

Let’s be clear: no one wants to go backwards in terms of tradition and program evolution. However, unless other conferences are open to cherry picking the residual Big East schools, there are really very few options and I suspect no one wants to go back to C-USA.

If the remaining schools were to band together and form a new conference, I believe one option on the table should be to revive the Metro league. It has name recognition, although a bit dated, and it fits the geographic locations of its would-be member schools and gives the beleaguered schools a new start with which to enter the future.

Assuming the schools agree to submit all of their athletic programs, Cincinnati, Central Florida, East Carolina, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Methodist and Temple would make a 10-team conference for the 2013-14 season. In addition to compiling some household names, each member school would boast large metropolitan populations that could entice large media rights deals and revenues for the universities.

When Louisville and Rutgers leave, the new conference can then seek out new programs. The actions of Mike Aresco and the Big East brass in the past year have shown there is not a shortage of programs looking to realign themselves in this era of athletic musical chairs.

One thing is for sure: the time has come for some proactive decision-making by these schools. Although the Big East did its best to recruit new schools to join, the situation is what it is and the wrench the Catholic 7 have thrown into the conference’s future plans lends itself to some creative thinking.

If there are no other viable options, this option would enjoin dejected, outlying athletic programs into one conference with a goal of moving forward and finding common ground. Louisville and Rutgers can use their resources to help these programs before they leave for their new conferences. Although it will still appear like they are running out on them, they will nonetheless garner the attention and respect as two big-time programs that provided leadership to help everyone affected.

Feel free to comment and let me know what you think. At this point, only discussion and bold ideas can solve this problem. What are your ideas for the remaining schools?

**Mr. Cardinal is a new correspondent around the Atlantic Coast Confidential office. He graduated from the University of Louisville and is currently the Senior Editor of Empress World Publishing in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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