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08.28.05: Wooden pulls out of Wooden Award ceremony
08.27.05: NCAA issues 'heads up' on new spearing rule ... Huggins ouster speeds up Cincy AD's departure
08.26.05: ECU's Moore sole Carolinas player on Butkus list ... New BCS voters panel already in for shakeup
08.25.05: Mayo's destination has well-worn path to ECU ... NCAA adds extra year to Gamecocks' probation
08.24.05: Transgression nets suspension for ECU's Flournoy ... Cincinnati will enter Big East without Huggins ... VPI poised to pony up to keep Beamer, staff
08.23.05: West Virginia announces halt to ECU ticket sales ... Polling company unveils official BCS voters list
08.22.05: Mountain West angling for clearer path to BCS
08.21.05: Associated Press preseason college football poll
08.20.05: Groh signs $1.7 million per year deal with UVa
08.19.05: Mountain West tidying up postseason deals
08.18.05: Talk 1070 touts Pirates, Panthers, new shows ... Fort Worth Bowl embraces Mountain West, TCU... NYC schools reap windfall from NCAA-NIT deal

News Nuggets, 08.29.05
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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

New home offers lavish new perks for Louisville

LOUISVILLE — Big money. Big time. Big East.

This fall, Louisville plunges into the conference it has pursued for years and takes aim at opportunities that seemed impossible less than a decade ago.

The fast-rising football program can capture the biggest prize of all: an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series and a multimillion dollar payoff Louisville never had a chance to win before.

The women's basketball team gets to rub elbows with national powers Connecticut, Notre Dame and Rutgers, and the men's basketball team enters a 16-team mega-league expected to be one of the best in history.

``It's all out in front of us now. The sky is the limit,'' said Louisville athletics director Tom Jurich.

The new league gives Louisville exposure in nine of the nation's 33 largest media markets. It also expands the school's recruiting range for all sports into the Northeast for the first time.

And then there's the money. Louisville officials know the school is going to cash in, but no one is sure how much.

Making the BCS would net the school millions but Kevin Miller, who oversees Louisville's athletic finances, has money questions beyond football. Among them: how the Big East will distribute revenue from its national TV contract, how the league handles NCAA disbursements and how much the school will spend on travel to more distant venues in more expensive cities.

``We're going to have added money we did not have before, we know that,'' Miller said. ``To put a number on that right now, I can't do that.''

Louisville failed in its first overtures to the Big East in the mid-1990s. The school was two years into its Conference USA membership when Jurich arrived in October 1997.

After he sized up Louisville's problems, Jurich realized C-USA was about the best league the school could attract. The men's basketball and women's volleyball programs faced NCAA investigations, the football team was midway through a 1-10 season and a Title IX expert had recently ripped the school for gender equity deficiencies.

``We were in no position to look at any conference,'' Jurich said. ``We had to try to be a good citizen within Conference USA. That was a very good fit for us at that point.''

Early in the rebuilding process, Jurich called Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and began explaining how he planned to reverse Louisville's fortunes.

``I was always trying to share our story with Mike and the members of the Big East, telling them what our vision was and where I wanted us to go,'' Jurich said.

Jurich added softball, rowing and women's golf to remedy the gender equity problems. He also hired John L. Smith, who quickly turned the football team into a high-scoring, TV-friendly winner.

New facilities were conceived, mostly funded by private donations. In 2000, Louisville unveiled $14 million Cardinal Park, a collection of fields for the softball, women's track, field hockey and soccer teams. In April 2005, Louisville christened a $10 million baseball stadium. A $12 million natatorium will open later this year, and an $8 million football practice facility is under construction.

But none of Jurich's moves impressed Tranghese more than hiring basketball coach Rick Pitino in March 2001. Pitino became Tranghese's friend and a star in the Big East coaching Providence in the mid-1980s.

Pitino immediately started working with Jurich to sell Tranghese on Louisville. But when Pitino asked his old friend what chance Louisville had of joining the league, Tranghese said it would never happen.

Within months of their conversation, Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Suddenly, Louisville skyrocketed to the top of Tranghese's wish list.

``When we lost people and sat down and talked about it for the first time, Louisville was always part of those conversations,'' Tranghese said. ``A big reason why was how much they seemed to want to be here with us.''

Louisville accepted an invitation to join the league in November 2003, along with fellow Conference USA defectors Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and South Florida. Louisville appears to be the readiest of the newcomers, led by its flagship football and basketball programs.

``They're very ambitious,'' Tranghese said. ``They're not coming here just to be a part of this league, they're coming to be a significant factor.''

In addition to football, Louisville is expected to contend for Big East titles this year in volleyball and field hockey. Since Jurich arrived, 15 of Louisville's 21 sports have had teams or individuals reach the NCAA postseason.

Now, though, the competition will be stronger. The Big East has won 24 national championships in six sports since it launched in 1979. In men's and women's basketball alone, the league has captured eight NCAA titles since 1999.

``We're very hungry to be the best in the league,'' Jurich said, ``but I don't think they're going to throw us out if we're not.''

News Nuggets are compiled periodically based on material supplied by staff members; data published by ECU, Conference USA and its member schools; and reports from Associated Press and other sources. Copyright 2005 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Page Updated: 02/23/2007 12:27 PM


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