Louisville vs. West Virginia: Did the Big 12 make a mistake by turning down the Cardinals?


Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino sits with women’s coach Jeff Walz during a celebration for their teams’ run in the Final Four tournament championship. In October the Big 12 passed on adding Louisville to the conference in favor of West Virginia and TCU.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

​Back in October 2011, the Big 12 selected West Virginia to become the Big 12’s 10th member instead of Louisville. Near the conclusion of the first year, it seems that the move may have blown up in the Big 12’s face.

​West Virginia finished the 2012 football season at a mediocre 7-6 including a loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Louisville went 11-2 to win the Big East and capped off the season with a victory over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.

​In men’s basketball, West Virginia finished eighth in a weak Big 12 conference with a 13-19 overall record and missed the postseason. Louisville, on the other hand, finished the year 35-5 while winning the national title. Their addition would have certainly strengthened the Big 12 in basketball and made it no longer just Kansas’ conference. 

Louisville was named the most profitable college basketball team by CNBC a few weeks back, and would have been a huge addition for the Big 12. The Cardinals’ three Final Fours since 2004 ties the Big 12’s total over that time.

​In women’s basketball there isn’t much of a comparison. The Mountaineers went 17-14,, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while the Cardinals went 29-9 and lost to Connecticut in the national title game, knocking off the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears along the way.

​Then you have baseball, where Louisville is clearly supreme. The Cardinals are ranked No. 8 in the country with a record of 28-7, while the Mountaineers are 20-17.

And to think Tom Jurich, Louisville’s athletic director, nearly went so far as to beg for admittance to the conference. Instead, the Big 12 chose West Virginia and its 871-mile commute to the nearest conference foe (Iowa State) as opposed to the 545 miles from Louisville to Lawrence, the home of the Jayhawks.

If the right decisions were made, the Big 12 probably would have two BCS teams, a team in the Final Four for both men’s and women’s basketball, and would have three teams currently in the Top 25 of baseball.

It has only been one season, and West Virginia has time to turn it around, but it seems like the Big 12 admitted the wrong team into the conference.