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U. of Pittsburgh
ACC asks Miami, Va. Tech to join

No word on whether they have accepted

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

By Paul Zeise, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The ACC Council of Presidents approved the addition of Big East members Miami and Virginia Tech during a four-hour conference call last night, according to several published reports. The New York Times reported that the proposal passed by a 7-2 vote.

The presidents at Miami and Virginia Tech still must formally accept the invitations, but officials from both schools declined comment. A spokes-man from the University of Pittsburgh also declined comment.

It was a stunning development because there were a number expansion plans discussed the past month but none involved the ACC becoming an 11-team league. And it does not meet the NCAA requirement of having a 12-team league in order to add a lucrative football conference championship game.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford did not issue a statement after the conference call late last night but is expected to have a news conference today in Greensboro, N.C.

The plan was a compromise among the presidents, as the original plan, which included adding Boston College, Syracuse and Miami, met a lot of resistance within the conference. By adding only Miami and Virginia Tech, concerns about increased travel costs become moot because the two schools are in the same geographic area as the rest of the conference.

Miami has consistently said it would likely only go to the ACC if Boston College and Syracuse were a part of the plan, and Virginia Tech is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the ACC by the Big East in order to try to stop expansion.

The original plan was moving ahead until the lawsuit was filed June 6, and the Big East began waging a public relation's war designed to paint the ACC as a conference of "greedy corporate raiders."

Since the lawsuit was filed, a number of alternatives, including several involving Virginia Tech and some combination of Miami, Boston College and Syracuse, have been proposed by Swofford, but none have met the approval of the presidents.

The lawsuit is set to move forward as a Connecticut judge will hear preliminary arguments in the case tomorrow. But it is unclear how the new developments will affect the lawsuit, given Virginia Tech's newfound role as plaintiff and potential defendant.

The lawsuit, which contends the ACC's expansion efforts will irreparably harm the five remaining Big East schools, is seeking "hundreds of millions of dollars" as well as "injunctive relief."

Yesterday, Big East founder and former commissioner Dave Gavitt called for both conferences to "join together to restore the collegial and cooperative relationship that has existed between them for decades."

Gavitt proposed that the ACC agree to expand by adding only Miami, leaving Boston College, Syracuse and Virginia Tech in the Big East. He also proposed that the Big East and ACC work together to strengthen both conferences in different forms of confederation, including an interconference football championship game.

"There can be no question that college athletics will be better off if two vibrant, competitive conferences can thrive together along America's Eastern seaboard," Gavitt said. "There is ample evidence that these types of collegial relationships -- among Big East and ACC university presidents, conference officials and athletic directors -- can only serve to enhance and improve the athletic programs of all member schools."

Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough told the Cox News Service yesterday that he was not in favor of the Miami-only idea. "We would consider [a 10-team conference] a fallback position and the expansion question would still not be resolved," he said.

Earlier in the day, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said he is prepared to intervene in the matter on behalf of Miami because the school has the right to choose which conference it wants to play in. He also said he was prepared to oppose the lawsuit, which has since received the support of Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher as well as the attorneys general of New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia.

"This is a fundamental dispute among athletic conferences and universities," Crist, who was asked by Miami to intercede in the matter, told The Associated Press. "Universities have the right to join any conference that invites them. The law does not compel Miami, or any institution, to rebuff a legitimate overture, as long as existing contractual obligations are satisfied."

He said he will most likely ask that the suit be dismissed.

When told of Crist's comments, Jeff Mishkin, lead council for the Big East said, "Given the ACC's conduct over the past few weeks, they clearly need all the help they can get."

Paul Zeise can be reached at pzeise@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1720.

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