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Friday, May 16
ACC presidents vote to invite Miami, Syracuse, BC

Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference decided on its expansion targets Friday, and forced the Big East into survival mode.

The ACC presidents voted in a conference call to begin formal discussions with Miami, Syracuse and Boston College.

Friday, May 16
The ACC chose Syracuse and Boston College to join Miami in its expansion plans for two reasons: relationships and travel.

Miami has the leverage and the Hurricanes wanted Syracuse and BC as travel partners. Miami also wanted to ensure that it had guaranteed trips to the Northeast, where it has a stronghold of alumni outside the state of Florida. The university draws hundreds of students from New York and Boston.

The ACC also wasn't about to discount the strong relationships between administrators. Miami president Donna Shalala and Syracuse president Buzz Shaw are good friends. So, too, are Miami athletic director Paul Dee and Syracuse athletic director John Crouthamel. Boston College has a history with Miami in football and the 'Canes don't mind continuing that tradition.

Virginia Tech was the choice, at least Virginia's choice, but the Hokies weren't a favorite of the ACC presidents and chancellors who voted on which three will get invites. Don't expect the Cavs to whine about Virginia Tech its exclusion. Publicly, they had to push for Virginia Tech so as not to upset the populace. But the Cavs would rather their in-state rival be in another conference; it doesn't hurt that Virginia would be considered a step above in the ACC.

The Big Ten had nothing to lose when it invited, and was rebuffed by, Notre Dame a few years back. But the ACC isn't about to be embarrassed. The conference knows there is serious interest from Miami, Syracuse and Boston College to take this next step. The only way they don't agree to join is if the Big East can convince all three that the financial numbers don't add up for them to defect. And, even then, they would have to break away from the other five non-football schools and the sixth that doesn't play Big East football. That would be Notre Dame.

The Big East can't boot Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall and St. John's. But the other eight Big East members can separate themselves from the five. If they were able to do that then they would have the majority and would be allowed, under Big East bylaws, to keep the name Big East and the NCAA Tournament's automatic berth.

Formal invitations by the ACC are not expected before Wednesday. The ACC still has to visit each of the three schools and meet with officials, tour facilities, and then formally extend the invitation before the schools can tell the Big East whether they're leaving by June 30 if they want out for 2004-05. But expansion might not happen until 2005-06 because of football scheduling issues.

The expansion, which could take effect for the 2004-05 academic year, would make it a 12-team superconference with a football championship game.

Clemson's James Barker, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents, said expansion is pending based on ACC by-laws, which include visits to the three campuses and discussions with each school president.

Virginia and that state's legislature were pushing hard for the Hokies to be included in a deal. But a proposal submitted by the Cavaliers to include in-state rival Virginia Tech fell short of the necessary seven votes by ACC school presidents, the league announced.

The defections of Miami, Syracuse and Boston College would leave the Big East with 11 members and an undecided future.

The Big East starts its annual meetings Saturday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Commissioner Mike Tranghese said Friday he was informed of the invitations in a phone call from John Swofford, his counterpart at the ACC.

"This comes as no surprise," Tranghese said. "We are looking forward to productive meetings this weekend. I am anxious to get started."

The timing of the ACC vote, on the eve of the Big East meetings, could be crucial to the process.

"It is our intention to give the Big East Conference a full and fair hearing regarding our continued membership," Miami said in a statement Friday.

The talk may be a little late.

"It's like a marriage proposal, you don't ask unless you know the answer," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said earlier in the week of the ACC's overtures.

Miami and its top-notch football program was the main target of the ACC, and a move to 12 teams would create two divisions in football and a lucrative playoff for a championship game like the SEC and Big 12 conferences.

It also would secure the ACC's position in any further Bowl Championship Series contracts.

The ACC's latest payout to its nine teams was a record $9.7 million each -- the most by any conference.

Miami lost $1.5 million during the 2001-02 academic year -- a season in which the football team won the national title and the men's basketball team posted its best record ever and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Duke and North Carolina, the only two ACC schools that voted not to expand several days ago at the league's meetings in Florida, voted to include the three Big East schools in a morning conference call among the school presidents.

"We were not in favor of expansion," Duke president Nan Keohane said. "But since the decision to expand has now been made, we decided that we wish to be part of framing the outcome and to join with our partners in the conference in making this step as positive as possible for everyone involved."

N.C. State athletic director Lee Fowler said the ACC's show of unity in the process was impressive.

"I don't think it's over by any means, but I'm glad we've come to this decision before the (Big East) started formal discussions," Fowler said.

"A lot of people have accused us of being after money only. But we're just looking to maintain our position financially," he said. "Some people thought staying where we were has been good, but it's healthy we're moving ahead as a cohesive group."

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver, in his hotel room in Florida preparing for the Big East meetings, was direct and to the point when he heard the news.

"My resolve is to work as hard as we can to keep the Big East Conference intact," Weaver said. "But obviously we don't want to spend four or five days doing that and then have people say they're gone. I'd rather if they've made up their minds, tell us up front so we can get on with life."

Virginia Tech and the other Big East schools could find themselves in football limbo in a few weeks.

"We might have had money to help Miami stay, but I don't think we have extra money to make Syracuse and BC stay," Weaver said of any possible incentives the Big East could offer schools. "And to be honest with you, if Syracuse and BC don't want this to happen, they can say no because I know the ACC doesn't want to go to 10.

"Those people are going to have travel budgets like they've never encountered before for their Olympic sports," Weaver added. "They'll understand what we have been doing at Virginia Tech because we've got to get on airplanes for everybody."

The ACC has expanded just twice in 50 years. Georgia Tech came into the league in 1978 and football power Florida State was added in 1991.

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