Conferences schedule games as part of settlement

BOSTON -- The Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference are
ready to stop fighting and start playing football again.

As part of a multimillion dollar settlement over the defection
of three schools, the conferences have scheduled nine additional
football games from 2008-12, including a visit by Miami to
Pittsburgh. The settlement, first reported by The Hartford Courant,
was also obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The newspaper reported that the total value of the settlement
was $5 million. The agreement didn't specify how much each Big East
school will receive, but a UConn bank statement obtained by the AP
shows that $1 million was deposited on April 27, the day the
settlement was finalized, by the law firm assigned to distribute
the cash.

"The state of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut
have made a tremendous investment in the university's football
program," UConn president Philip E. Austin and athletic director
Jeff Hathaway said in a statement. "Initiating this litigation was
one part of a larger effort to protect that investment."

The settlement bars the parties from discussing the terms or
even announcing an agreement unless required to do so. The Courant
obtained the settlement through Connecticut's open records law; a
copy was also obtained by the AP.

The ACC courted several Big East schools in 2003 in an attempt
to expand to 12 teams and hold a lucrative conference championship.
Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College were eventually invited to
join the Greensboro, N.C.-based conference; commissioner John
Swofford likened the acquisition of BC to "a good marriage."

But, as these things sometimes go, BC was still married to
someone else.

Complaining that they spent millions of dollars to upgrade their
programs based on the presumed loyalty of the defectors, four Big
East schools that were left behind sued. In a flurry of lawsuits
and countersuits, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
accused Miami and Boston College of conspiring with the ACC to
weaken the Big East by luring away some of its biggest football

"We pursued this case because the future of the Big East
Conference was at risk _ the stakes huge for both state taxpayers
and the university's good name," Blumenthal said.

The settlement includes the $1 million exit fee Boston College
was required to pay the Big East under the league's constitution.
Miami and Virginia Tech have already joined the ACC, and Boston
College is now cleared to join on July 1.

But this divorce also includes visitation, a sign that the
conferences are willing to put their bitterness aside when it's in
their mutual financial interest.

The settlement specifies home-and-home series between Florida
State and West Virginia, North Carolina and Rutgers, North Carolina
State and Pittsburgh, and Virginia and Connecticut. Miami will
receive an appearance fee of $225,000 for playing at Pittsburgh on
Sept. 11, 2010.

"We are truly excited to have Boston College join the ranks of
the Atlantic Coast Conference as Miami and Virginia Tech did a year
ago," Swofford said in a statement. "We certainly look forward to
a bright future as a 12-member league."

The presidents of Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West
Virginia signed off on the agreement, which drops lawsuits between
the conferences, their member schools and officers. Both
commissioners also endorsed the deal.

The loss of BC, Miami and Virginia Tech prompted the Big East to
look elsewhere to rebuild its ranks. This fall, the conference will
add football members Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida to
round out the eight-member conference.