Jeff Walz is glad that the conference shuffle has stopped for his Louisville Cardinals. It was getting dizzying.
The Cardinals are entering their third conference in three seasons with the school’s move to the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. Walz knows that this is as good a place as any for his team.
”It’s nice to be able to go out on the recruiting trail and say this is where we are, the ACC,” Walz said. ”You never know if the shift is finished for good, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be in the ACC for a long while.”
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The Cardinals aren’t the only team changing membership this season. Coming back into the Big Ten is also a homecoming for Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, who spent 12 seasons at Iowa before joining the Scarlet Knights in 1995. Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten, too.
While Louisville, Maryland and Rutgers have drawn the attention with their conference shifts, they aren’t the only moves. The American Athletic Conference added East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa.
Other changes this year include Appalachian State (Sun Belt), Davidson (Atlantic 10), East Tennessee (Southern), Elon (Colonial Athletic), Georgia Southern (Sun Belt), Idaho (Big Sky), Mercer (Southern), Oral Roberts (The Summit), VMI (Southern) and Western Kentucky (Conference USA).
At least Walz is no stranger to his new conference, spending time as an assistant at Maryland from 2002-07, including helping the Terps win a national championship in 2006.
”It gives us a little bit of help when I can sit there and talk about the arenas we’re going to play in and the fan bases going in, but honestly it’s been awhile since I’ve been in this league and a lot of the coaches have changed.”
So have some of the teams. Walz has a familiarity with Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame from his time in the Big East – all of whom have joined the ACC in the last few years.
”We’ll learn the new teams pretty quickly,” Walz said. ”There definitely is a different mindset now where you know any night you can get beat.”
Maryland coach Brenda Frese said she will miss facing ACC foes such as Duke and North Carolina as she gets ready for a Big Ten slate instead.
”(T)hose home games were always a lot of fun,” she said. ”. But I think the biggest thing that happens in any conference as I’ve been a part of is you do create your own rivalries, and there’s going to be nothing different when you talk about in our conference.”
Frese grew up in Iowa and coached at Minnesota for a season, so she’s well aware of what the Big Ten has to offer.
”I mean, when you look at the proximity of Rutgers and Penn State for us, those are going to be great environments,” she said. ”And then obviously we’re going to build when we go on the road so many great rivalries in this conference. So it’s just great competition. I think at the end of the day your players, your team, your coaches, you want to play against great competition, and we’re going to be doing that.”
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