In a quick-strike move to make sure they don't get left behind in the realignment game, the ACC presidents and chancellors voted this morning to add Louisville, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation. The Cardinals will replace Maryland as the league's 14th member.
The ACC chose Louisville because it had the strongest football program of any available school in addition to an elite basketball program. It also adds a new geographic market. There had been a small amount of resistance heading into the ACC's 7 a.m. call on Wednesday because of the school's low academic profile.
The shift is another significant move in realignment and pushes college sports closer to 16-team super conferences. A source with knowledge of the ACC's discussions said a big reason that the ACC moved so quickly to add Louisville was that the Big 12 also had interest in the Cardinals.
"This is a unique reset moment," said a person with direct knowledge of the move. "Schools that weren't in the mix may come into the mix. Some schools on the sidelines now seem more relevant, especially if we going to start talking about 16."
The ACC has also been also contacted by Connecticut, USF, Cincinnati and Navy. None of those schools are being sought after by other leagues, meaning that if the ACC moves to 16 schools there's no rush to add one of them now.
That wasn't the case with Louisville. On a deeper level, the move signifies another intense round of conference realignment chaos. The loss of Louisville will be crushing to the Big East, as the presence of Louisville and UConn are considered to be holding that league's basketball-only faction together.
"All bets are off now," said a person with direct knowledge of the ACC's move. "At some point in time someone crosses the line and starts to enter the next level of growth. If that happens, do you want to be the institution on the outside looking in?"
Louisville was always considered a logical candidate for the Big 12, as it would give West Virginia a geographic partner. The looming question is whether Big 12 presidents feel pressure to expand from 10 schools now that the Pac-12 (12), SEC (14), ACC (14) and Big Ten (14) are all significantly bigger.
The ACC's proactive move signals that there will be more significant change on the college sports landscape.
"Conferences aren't going to look like they did before," said the person with knowledge of Louisville's move. "Anyone who is thinking, we're just fine and there's no need for anything to happen is some combination of naïve and ill-informed or not waking up to where the business is going."