Musical Chairs

Louisville latest to jump ship, moving to ACC


And we have our first major “upset” in the latest in the latest game of conference musical chairs, aside from the whole Tulane-to-the-Big East thing of course.

When Maryland announced a week and a half ago that they would be moving from the ACC to the Big Ten in 2014, it was widely assumed that UConn was far and away the front-runner to replace the Terps, with Louisville holding the slimmest of hopes according to most observers and Cincinnati only recently — at least publicly — throwing their hat into the ACC ring.

In the end, however, it’s the Cardinals who will be afforded the opportunity to move on from a wobbly Big East conference.

Following a seven a.m. ET meeting of league presidents and chancellors, the ACC voted Wednesday morning to add Louisville as the conference’s 14th member.  As would be expected, the addition of the UofL came by a unanimous vote of the presidents and on the first ballot.

The when of Louisville’s move is still to be determined.  Technically, Big East bylaws would prohibit a move until 2015, although West Virginia (Big 12), Pittsburgh (ACC) and Syracuse (ACC) all left or will leave earlier than that time frame by paying an exit fee above the $10 million called for by the conference.

Louisville has gradually crawled its way up the conference ladder, spending nine seasons (1996-2004) in Conference USA before moving to the Big East in 2005.  Thanks to a strong financial commitment to improving its facilities in all sports in general and football specifically, however, the Cardinals are finally one of the “in schools” in a Big Five conference, albeit the least stable of that group.

With Louisville likely joining in 2014 at the latest, and Pittsburgh and Syracuse beginning play in 2013, nearly half of the ACC football-wise will consist of former Big East members: the three aforementioned, plus Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech.  As for in which division Louisville might play, that has yet to be determined.  Maryland was a member of the Atlantic, although it may make more sense for the UofL to be dropped into the Coastal even as they’re nowhere near a coast.

By 2015, and for football purposes, the Big East will consist of current members Cincinnati, UConn, Temple and South Florida; Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU and UCF (all in 2013); East Carolina and Tulane (2014); and Navy (2015).  The Big East has seen seven members announce their intentions to depart the past year.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.