Facing league changes, Tyra says UofL's future is with ACC

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- When University of Louisville athletics director Vince Tyra held a press conference outside Gate 2 at Cardinal Stadium Tuesday afternoon, his main purpose was to announce enhancements to the stadium for the 2021 football season.


But there was an elephant in the stadium that Tyra was certain to be questioned about: the seismic exit of Oklahoma and Texas from the Big 12, presumably to clear the way for a move to the SEC, and the future ramifications for the Atlantic Coast Conference, UofL and the entire conference landscape.


Conference realignment has been the hot topic ever since the Houston Chronicle reported last Wednesday that the Sooners and Longhorns were making plans to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. On Monday, they made it official, taking the first stop by notifying the Big 12 that they will not renew the league's grant-of-media-rights agreement when it expires in 2025.


Both schools could be required to pay $80 million to break the current agreement. Oklahoma and Texas have not yet named the SEC as their desired destination, but that appears to be their goal, which would make the SEC the first 16-team superconference while trimming the Big 12 to eight.


In turn, their move will have repercussions throughout the Power 5 and maybe beyond as schools try to maximize their earning power and guarantee a profitable future.


Reportedly, Kansas and Iowa State are already exploring their viability for the Big Ten, which might find the Acc's Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia to be attractive targets. And West Virginia is interested in departing the Big 12 for the ACC. Jay Bilas has suggested that the ACC should approach the SEC for a merger.


The ACC, obviously, would like to add Notre Dame as a full-time member. The Irish became a partial member in 2013, competing in every sport except football but agreeing to play five ACC opponents a year.


New ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips said during ACC Kickoff media days last week that the league has been "less than bashful" about its desire to add Notre Dame on a full-time basis.


So the possibilities seem almost endless.


As for Louisville, Tyra believes the Cards' future is best-served in the ACC, although jumping to another conference wouldn't exactly be new to them. UofL became a member of the ACC in 2015 after stints in the Missouri Valley, Metro, Conference USA, the Big East and the American.


"They brought us into the Power Five, it's been a good fit for us in a lot of ways, and I don't really see that changing," Tyra said of the ACC Tuesday. "It would have to be something at conference level, not on individual university level."


Tyra added that he sees the current members of the ACC staying put due to having built solid relationships.


"It's a strong group," he said. "One thing I say is, it's a very close-knit group. We have AD's who have come from other Power Five conferences, who have commented that this group is really tight. They really enjoy that. I think, with that, comes a lot of trust to have those conversations."


Still, Tyra acknowledged that the ACC should explore potential growth and other issues, primarily because of the "financial gap in the media rights value." He was referring to the league's having signed a 20-year contract with ESPN in 2016 that now falls significantly short of the deals that other Power Five conferences have negotiated since.


"I think the ACC, like every other conference, has been sorting out who's the best fit, do you grow and how do you grow," Tyra said.


In a text message to Courier-Journal columnist Tim Sullivan, UofL men's basketball coach Chris Mack said, "Not sure how I feel anymore. Seems strange to me. Conferences that have 16 members don't feel like a conference to me. I understand that $ is the driver, but it doesn't make much sense in respect to rivalries and the tradition and the pageantry I grew up watching."


CARDS VS. MISSISSIPPI ST. IN NASSAU


In pairings announced Wednesday for the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, UofL will face Mississippi State at the Bahar Mar Convention Center in Nassau. Maryland will play Richmond in the other game, with the winners squaring off on Nov. 27 in the title game and the losers playing in a consolation game the same day.


Those four teams are among 19 men's and women's programs that will participate in the "Bahar Mar Hoops" festival from Nov. 22-27 across three events, the other two being the Baha Mar Hoops Nassau Championship and the Pink Flamingo Championship.


Mississippi State returns two of its top three scorers from the team that finished 18-15 and was the runnerup in the National Invitation Tournament. Guard Iverson Molinar ranked among the SEC's top 10 scorers at 16.7 points per game, while 6-10 forward Tolu Smith led the league in rebounds per game (8.5) and double-doubles (8) and averaged 12.6 ppg. The Bulldogs added four transfers in Garrison Brooks (North Carolina), D.J. Jeffries (Memphis), Rocket Watts (Michigan State) and Shakeel Moore (NC State).

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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