The Atlantic Coast Conference has announced its presidents and chancellors have unanimously voted to add Louisville as the replacement for Maryland.
In a statement Wednesday, league Commissioner John Swofford said the addition of Louisville along with Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the past 15 months has made the league stronger.
“With its aggressive approach to excellence in every respect, the University of Louisville will enhance our league’s culture and commitment to the cornerstones we were founded on 60 years ago,” Swofford said.
Maryland announced last week it would join the Big Ten in 2014.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that ACC leaders also considered Connecticut and Cincinnati over the past week before the vote to add Louisville during a conference call Wednesday morning. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the ACC hasn’t released details of the expansion discussions.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said school officials “sincerely appreciate this opportunity” and that the move will “open so many more doors for us both athletically … and academically for our university.”
“When it became apparent to us that we needed to make a move, the ACC is the perfect fit for us and we are so elated to be joining this prestigious conference,” Jurich said in a statement.
It’s unclear exactly when Louisville will join the ACC. The Cardinals will be the seventh Big East school to leave for the ACC in the past decade.
Politicians around Kentucky also cheered the move.
Louisville mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement calling the ACC’s decision “a fantastic development for the university, the city and the state.” U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement the move was a credit to Jurich’s leadership of the athletic department.
The Big East has a 27-month notification period for any member that wants to leave. The Big East has shown a willingness to negotiate, as it did with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who paid $7.5 million each to get out early when the exit fee was $5 million.
The Big East has since increased that fee to $10 million.
This latest rapid-fire round of realignment was set off last week by the Big Ten’s additions of Maryland and Rutgers, which will join that conference in 2014.
On Tuesday, the Big East added Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football only, also beginning in 2014.
Adding Louisville will bring the ACC to an even 14 full members, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse beginning conference play in 2013.
Two months ago, the ACC announced the addition of Notre Dame for all the conference’s sports but football, with the fiercely independent Fighting Irish committing to play five ACC football opponents each season. Most of Notre Dame’s non-football sports have competed in the Big East since 1995.
Louisville’s addition will add some extra juice to what’s already one of the nation’s premier conferences for men’s basketball.
Louisville, currently ranked No. 5, brings a tradition-rich program to the ACC that has won two national championships and reached its ninth Final Four last season. In addition, Rick Pitino will give the league another marquee coaching name alongside Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and soon Jim Boeheim of Syracuse.
The school’s football program is a win away from earning a BCS berth. Charlie Strong’s Cardinals travel to Rutgers on Thursday night for a game in which they could clinch the Big East’s BCS bid.
The ACC’s decision to add Louisville is a blow for Connecticut, which had been looking for a landing spot since Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their Big East exits. UConn President Susan Herbst had indicated that an invitation to join that ACC is something the school would welcome.