(USA Today Sports Images)The BCS started in the 1998-99 season, and yet only two other teams have done what Louisville pulled off this season: win a BCS bowl game and a NCAA men's basketball championship. (We'll give you a few seconds to think about the other two – one is pretty obvious, the other is an 'Oh, wow, that's right' type of answer – and let you know a little later.)
There's a reason schools think of themselves as a "football school," a "basketball school," or brag about academics. It's really hard to be good at both sports. The list of schools that are consistently competitive in both major sports is pretty short. And, especially when you consider the Cardinals women's basketball team plays for a NCAA title on Tuesday night, Louisville has to be the undisputed king of that short list.
Louisville was probably fortunate the Big East didn't have its BCS automatic qualifier status stripped by 2012, but it did justify its Sugar Bowl slot by pummeling Florida. And Louisville should be very good once again this season in the new American Athletic Conference, before leaving for the ACC. The Cardinals have 15 starters returning from a team that started 9-0 last year. And they have quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who could be a top five pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
It's good to be a Louisville fan right now.
(The other schools to win a BCS bowl game and a NCAA men's basketball championship in the same calendar year are Florida in 2007 and Kansas in 2008. You're forgiven if you forgot Kansas, because that seems like a million years ago in terms of where the Jayhawks football program is now.)
Louisville isn't one of the schools we naturally think about when we consider dual-sport powers like Texas or Florida. Before 1998, it had been to just five bowl games, and went the entire 1980s without going to one. It is a great basketball school but before Monday night it had not won a hoops title in 27 years. Athletic director Tom Jurich built the department into a powerhouse by marketing Louisville well and making smart moves, including hiring excellent coaches like Charlie Strong and Rick Pitino. The improvement Louisville has made over the last 15-20 years is remarkable and should give any struggling athletic department a model to follow.
Being great in the two major college sports at the same time isn't easy. Louisville is doing it better than anybody else, however.