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The latest piece in the puzzle of major conference realignment fell into place Wednesday as the University of Louisville was added to the ACC as a direct replacement for Maryland, which elected to join the Big Ten last week.
Louisville joins Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers as the latest teams to leave the Big East -- all following in the footsteps of West Virginia and TCU (which never actually played a game in the conference), who elected to leave prior to this football season. Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech famously fled the Big East nearly a decade ago.
North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorpe, the acting chair of the ACC Council of Presidents, said the move was exactly the boost the conference was looking for.
"What the ACC needed," Thorpe said, "was to add the most exciting athletic program it could."
According to ACC commissioner John Swofford, the Cardinals will fill the spot lost by Maryland by being placed directly into the Atlantic Division.
The excitement was shared on the Louisville campus, where athletic director Tom Jurich said the move was a perfect fit for the school.
"This will open so many more doors for us both athletically for all of our sports programs and academically for our university," Jurich said. "What I really like about this move is it's terrific for our fans, with the proximity of the institutions, and we never have to leave the Eastern time zone."
The move not only helps to ensure the long-term stability for the program; it allows the current recruiting philosophies being implemented by Charlie Strong and his staff to stay in place.
In the two full classes that Strong has signed while at Louisville, only four of 43 players lived outside of the current ACC footprint.
The current class has three players from Florida, two from Georgia and one from North Carolina.
Rivals.com Southeast regional analyst Kynon Codrington said that the relationships already built by Strong and assistant coach Clint Hurtt in ACC territory make this a natural fit.
"I think (Strong and Hurtt) have done a tremendous job here in Florida," Codrington said. "They have already beaten Miami and Florida State for recruits, so they were already on the right path.
"The move does cast a wider net for them in states like South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia; some of the more traditional ACC areas."
The timing of the move could not have been better. Had Louisville been selected to join the ACC before Strong was named the head coach, the situation could have been dramatically different as the three signing classes prior to his arrival included 37 of 82 signees from outside the ACC footprint.
Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove offensive lineman Skylar Lacy and Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic tight end Keith Towbridge are the only members of the current nine-man Cardinals commitment list not from traditional ACC recruiting beds.
Rivals.com Midwest regional recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said this will improve things for Louisville because it had already started moving toward the ACC region.
"Louisville recruiting has already received a bump under Charlie Strong," he said. "The ACC move should give Louisville even greater television and media presence in the Sunshine State and create even greater momentum for Strong and his staff.
"They should still try to pick off the top players in Kentucky every year, but because the state does not produce a ton of talent, I expect they put even more resources in places like Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas."
Lexington (Ky.) Catholic quarterback Kyle Bolin immediately took to Twitter to share his excitement for the change.
Bolin said that when he committed the original recruiting pitch was that the program was going to be in the Big 12, but the move out of the Big East was met with enthusiasm.
"ACCepted!!! #GoCards #L1C4 #CardNation #BirdGang #LYea," he posted on his account.
Fellow Cardinals commit Terrence Ross of Apopka (Fla.) Wekiva posted that he and Bolin are going to be roommates, and he is eager to get on campus.
"#AccQB (Bolin) and I #AccSafety are going to be roommates," he tweeted. "Can't wait so I need make a UofL family before I get there so show some Love."
The jubilation for the expansion was not limited to the players.
Swofford said the ACC was thrilled to move west.
"We are very excited," he said. "We have extended our footprint into a vibrant region that is collegiately driven."
While it has not been finalized as to whether the move will be for the 2013 or 2014 football season, Jurich said that, once the program gets into the conference, it will be ready.
"A lot people talk it, but we walk it," he said. "We're not going to gloat, but what we have tried to do is do it the right way."
Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
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