The Louisville Cardinals won the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament last night. The Cardinals are in their last season as a Big East member, and will head to the ACC presently. It's an open secret that Louisville strongly campaigned for a Big 12 invite, and were told "thanks, but no thanks...for now." OK, then.
The last Big 12 school not named the Kansas Jayhawks to make the Final Four? The West Virginia Mountaineers in 2010. Wait, what do you mean the Mountaineers weren't in the Big 12 at that point? Oh. Right. I guess it's the Oklahoma St. Cowboys, in 2004. Never mind that Louisville has been the Final Four three times since then (2005, 2012, 2013).
This year's Final Four appearance was Louisville's 10th historically. Not only that, the Cardinals have now won 3 National Championships (1980, 1986, 2013). Kansas has 3, too. Ha! Only one of those came as a member of the Big 12. Then again, Louisville had the gall to win big when it was part of the now-defunct Metro Conference. Oh, the humanity! Oklahoma St. has won 2 too. That was when they were Oklahoma A&M, and the years were 1945 and 1946. Nothing screams conference superiority like Pre-Truman Doctrine national titles! Texas A&M can surely vouch for that.
Hey! Did you know the Cardinals are also kind of good in football? Louisville has been to 2 BCS Bowl games: The Sugar in the 2012 season and the Orange in the 2006 season. Wouldn't you know it? They're undefeated in BCS play. Regular season matters too? Well since 1998, when John L. Smith took over as head coach, the Cardinals are 122-65 (65.2% winning %). And that's even after being Kragthorpe'd.
Check the financials. Louisville apparently makes oodles and oodles of cash. A USA Today study published the Cardinals' revenue from from 2006-2011 as $87MM. Sure, that was about half what the Texas Longhorns made, but it also outpaced any Big 12 team not named Texas or Oklahoma. The Cardinals were also about $20MM ahead of any other non-power conference school (UConn came in at $63MM). In 2012, Forbes called Louisville the nation's most profitable college basketball team, with a total value of $36.1MM. That point was reiterated by CNBC three weeks ago.
So their recent past is pretty good. We're talking future projections here, man. So what if football head coach Charlie Strong now gets paid $3.7MM after recently receiving a contract extension through 2020. Oh, that's 7th nationally amongst head coaches? Next you'll be telling me his 5-year plan is amongst the 10th best in the country (like Scout.com is a real website).
Yeah, Louisville's basketball head coach Rick Pitino may have won 2 NCAA Championships, exactly twice the total of all the other Big 12 coaches combined. That's to be expected from one of the highest paid coaches in the country, right?! Unless your name is Rick Barnes.
Pitino's 2013 recruiting class ranks just a rudimentary 8th in the nation. There's not even a McDonald's All-American, unlike the Big 12, which had a grand total of...err, 1 (Wayne Selden, Kansas). Baylor's 15th ranked and West Virginia's 25th ranked classes are surely underrated, to speak nothing of everyone else in the Big 12 who probably maybe made the Others Receiving Votes section.
Hey, the Cardinals have only 2 Top 50 prospects committed in the 2014 class. The Big 12 doesn't have a single commitment in the entire Top 150, but don't worry: if you halfheartedly build it, they will come. Methinks two consecutive Final Four appearances is probably a fluke, anyway.
Charlie Strong's 2013 football recruiting class? A pitiful 52nd! How are they ever going to compete with the Kansas' of the world when the Charlie Weis' of the world can get 46th ranked recruiting classes! It was hard enough to get excited about TCU's Gary Patterson and West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, two coaches who recruit underrated prospects, maximize their abilities, and have started recruiting better now that they've got a big name conference behind them...wait, what was I talking about again?
No, I've got it. TV markets. It's all about the almighty dollar. Austin's 49th overall TV market blasts Louisville's out of the water! 50th? HA. SUCK MY ANTENNAE. So what if Louisville is 100 minutes from Cincinnati (34th), 2 hours from Indianapolis (25th), 2.5 hours from Nashville (29th), 3 hours from Columbus (32nd), and 4 hours from St. Louis (21st)? It's not like any of the 130,000 living Cardinals alumni (twice that of TCU, by the way) would live in those attractive metropolitan midwest regions.
In summary, the Big 12 really has no desire for a school that has a profit-generating athletics department, stable and burgeoning revenue sports (to speak nothing of its decent non-revenue programs), highly regarded coaches, and passionate alumni base. Who needs wins and dollars, anyway?