SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Louisville athletics is in conference realignment limbo, spending this season in the brand-new American Athletic Conference, waiting to join the ACC as its newest member next July.
The year-long wait to join the ACC hasn’t stopped Rick Pitino, who is being enshrined this weekend at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, from envisioning future plans for his Cardinals in their new conference.
He already has his sights set on his desired opponent in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Minnesota, coached by his son Richard.
“I’m hoping, that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge … I’m hoping that we get matched up them because it terms of a home and home, I’m not playing him,” Pitino told reporters on Saturday at the Hall of Fame’s press conference.
A father-son battle wouldn’t be anything new to the Pitino household or college basketball. This past season, Rick’s Cards blew out Richard’s Florida International Golden Panthers 79-55 on Dec. 19. Now that the younger Pitino is in a power conference, Rick mentioned that a game between the Cardinals and Golden Gophers would put the family rivalry on a more level playing field.
“I think it would be fun,” the new Hall of Fame member said. “I played him at FIU and he was totally mismatched, and at least we can play on more equal terms.
“I think it’d be great. If we win I feel bad for him. If we lose I’ll feel great for him.”
If Rick Pitino does get his way, and ends up in an early-season tilt with Minnesota — either in 2014 or down the road — it could be a very competitive game. The two-time national champion coach sees big things on the horizon for the Golden Gophers athletic program.
“I think it’s a crown jewel in the Big Ten that just needs to have their facilities upgraded to be every bit as good as any school in the Big Ten, and I think with their new AD [Norwood Teague], I think that’s going to happen. And it is happening.”
Potentially beginning in the 2014-2015 season, the Cardinals may have a new non-conference foe in their new home.