|Saturday, June 21
Updated: June 22, 4:21 PM ET
Two plans throw Virginia Tech into mix
By Andy Katz
Nine ACC presidents held a Saturday morning conference call, but failed to produce a vote on expansion.
What did they talk about? A source close to the process told ESPN.com that three different expansion models -- two with Virginia Tech and one with just Miami -- were on the agenda.
The last model would be a way to appease the political concerns facing ACC member Virginia, which is under in-state political pressure not to vote for expansion if Virginia Tech isn't invited.
"The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents continued conversations (Saturday) and moved closer to the completion of the expansion process," the conference said Saturday in a statement. Consideration and clarification of a number of institutional questions were the focus of the meeting.
"The meeting was positive and the Council made progress that will enable it to reach its goal of concluding this process by the end of the month.''
The Big East schools must let the ACC know its intentions by June 30 for the 2004-05 season or face a $2 million penalty. The exit fee for leaving on one-year's notice is $1 million, but multiple sources said the expansion would likely be for the 2005-06 season, meaning the schools would have until June 30, 2004 to pay that fee.
Television contracts for the Bowl Championship Series expire after the 2004-05 season, making more sense to add teams under a new television contract that can be divided 10, 12, or 13 ways beginning in 2005-06.
Mark D. Fabiani, who represents the five Big East football schools that filed suit June 6 accusing the ACC, Miami and Boston College of conspiring to destroy the Big East, issued a statement following Saturday's ACC conference call.
"Yet another ACC expansion meeting has ended, and it continues to defy belief that the ACC is relentlessly trying to destroy the athletic programs of fellow academic institutions even as the ACC's own experts admit there is no financial benefit in doing so.
"Even more stunning is the ACC's continued pursuit of such predatory, destructive conduct without any willingness to openly and publicly discuss the matter with those they are trying to destroy. Day by day, the ACC simply strengthens the Big East's lawsuit and ensures there will be huge damages to pay at the end of the process."
Virginia Tech became a player in expansion last week after the ACC presidents decided to explore the possibility of adding the Hokies, the Associated Press reported.
Virginia Tech was originally left out of the ACC expansion proposal during a May 16 conference call, joining the remaining Big East football schools not included in the proposal -- Connecticut, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Rutgers. The five schools formed a lawsuit against Miami, BC and the ACC. The lawsuit claims the defendants conspired to ruin the Big East after two member schools made promises to stay in the Big East. The remaining schools claim statements made by those schools led to football facility projects ranging in the tens of millions of dollars.
Virginia Tech president Charles Steger and Georgia Tech president G. Wayne Clough reportedly met in Blacksburg on Wednesday night. But a source at Virginia Tech told ESPN.com on Friday that the school has concerns it could be used as a pawn to get rid of the lawsuit, saying that there is "a lack of trust in the whole process right now.''
ACC commissioner John Swofford is trying to get a seventh and deciding vote. He reportedly has "yes" votes from six members -- Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Florida State.
Duke and North Carolina are reportedly against expansion, while Virginia may only vote "yes" if Virginia Tech is added. Bylaws state the need for seven of nine votes for expansion, although some media outlets have reported there is a desire to alter the bylaws and require only six votes, or two-thirds of the conference, to expand.
Sources told ESPN.com there is confusion in the conference as to why Duke and North Carolina endorsed site visits to Miami, Boston College and Syracuse, but then weren't prepared to vote for expansion a few weeks later. If the ACC decides to move forward with Virginia Tech and add the Hokies to the plan, then it would officially have to go on a site visit like it did with the other three Big East schools.
The 10-team ACC would give the conference two of the most powerful football programs in the country in Florida State and Miami, but it wouldn't offer a football championship game. The NCAA requires a league have 12 teams to conduct a championship game like the Big 12 and the SEC.
The ACC could petition the NCAA for a championship game with 10 schools. A 12-team ACC, with Virginia Tech replacing either Syracuse or BC, would certainly shock whichever school is left behind, especially if it were the Eagles. BC is named in a lawsuit by the un-invited Big East football schools.
A 13-team ACC, with all four Big East schools, would be hard to manage from a scheduling perspective, and multiple sources told ESPN.com that the ACC wouldn't stop at 13 in the long term. The 13-team expansion could weaken the lawsuit, although Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal said it would actually strengthen the case.
The ACC didn't discuss a 14-team plan on any of the recent conference calls, but it did analyze the idea over the past 18 months. The 14-team scenario included a number of schools out of the Big East.
Meanwhile, a source close to Louisville said the Cardinals are waiting to see what occurs before committing to joining the Big East. If the Big East loses Miami, then the league is expected to go after Louisville, which would be ready to accept in that scenario. Louisville would still probably leave Conference USA if the Big East lost Miami, BC and Syracuse, but if the Big East also lost Virginia Tech then Louisville would be reluctant to join the four remaining football schools.
Sources within the Big East said the league would be aggressive to pursue a 16-team confederation that has eight football-playing members. Under that scenario, the Big East would try to add Xavier (Atlantic 10) and Marquette (Conference USA) on the basketball side, and Louisville on the football/basketball side. If two or three other members were needed, the Big East would also consider Cincinnati (C-USA), Central Florida (MAC/Atlantic Sun), South Florida (C-USA) and East Carolina (C-USA).
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.