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Friday, June 6
Updated: June 9, 1:31 PM ET
Five schools sue to try to prevent ACC expansion

Associated Press

Five Big East schools sued Friday to try to prevent Miami and Boston College from jumping to the Atlantic Coast Conference, accusing them of secretly taking part in an expansion plan that could ruin the Big East.

Report: Miami will say 'yes'
A source has told the Miami Herald that University of Miami president Donna Shalala has indicated to ACC officials that the Hurricanes will jump from the Big East to the ACC.

The presidents of the nine ACC schools -- Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia and Wake Forest -- were expected to hold a conference call meeting Monday morning to vote on whether to formally extend invitations to Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, but a spokesman for the ACC said he had "no comment" on when the presidents will hold the call.

During that time, separate votes will be taken regarding whether to extend invitations to Boston College and Syracuse.

At least seven ACC schools must vote to invite each of the three prospective invitees for conference expansion to take place. The Herald cites as its source "a high-ranking official connected to an ACC school."

If at least seven of the nine ACC presidents vote yes, Shalala or her university representative -- possibly athletic director Paul Dee -- will be informed of the invitation. After Miami tells the ACC its decision, which is expected to be yes barring a major complication, the ACC would call a news conference, likely the next day.

Shalala declined comment through a Miami spokesperson.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday that Miami, Syracuse, and Boston College want to begin competing in the ACC in 2004 to avoid two years of lame-duck status in the Big East.

"There are concerns about delaying the issue," Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel told the newspaper Thursday night. "Delaying the entrance would not be a deal-breaker, but there are concerns about delaying it."

For the three potential Big East defectors, the biggest concern is that a delay would mean playing in stadiums and arenas filled with angry fans. Sticking around also could cause animosity among Big East athletics administrators incensed about the defections.
-- news services

The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in Hartford, Conn., says Miami and Boston College professed loyalty to their conference while concocting a "deliberate scheme to destroy the Big East and abscond with the collective value of all that has been invested and created in the Big East."

Big East schools went ahead with expensive renovations and upgrades under the assumption they would be part of a healthy conference for years to come, the lawsuit contends.

The Big East could lose millions of dollars in revenue from bowl games, the lucrative Bowl Championship Series and from TV deals, the lawsuit says. The nine-team ACC has promised football power Miami increased revenue from a more lucrative TV deal it believes it could negotiate as a 12-team conference.

The lawsuit was filed by the five football-playing schools in the Big East that are not considering leaving -- Pittsburgh, Connecticut, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. The ACC, Miami and Boston College are defendants. Syracuse is part of the potential ACC expansion but was not included in the lawsuit because plaintiffs said they found no evidence the school made promises to stay in the Big East.

"It's unfortunate that institutions that have been friends are now at odds," Syracuse spokesman Kevin Morrow said.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said conference lawyers were reviewing the lawsuit.

"We're disappointed that these schools have chosen to take this action," he said.

Miami athletic director Paul Dee said he wouldn't comment on specifics of the lawsuit but that the university would defend itself.

"We believe that everything that we've done is appropriate," Dee said.

Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn did not immediately return messages left at his office.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said only that he was aware of the lawsuit and that his conference was not involved in the complaint.

The five Big East schools are suing for financial damages and want an injunction to prevent Miami and Boston College from leaving.

"Our universities have brought this lawsuit with great regret and only as a last resort. Unfortunately the actions of Miami and BC -- in concert with the ACC -- simply left us no choice but to act," presidents of the five schools said in a statement.

The ACC last month announced plans to try to expand. Miami is the linchpin of the deal, and if the Hurricanes go, Boston College and Syracuse are expected to follow.

ACC representatives have visited all three campuses and a final decision on expansion is expected soon.

The lawsuit accuses Miami and Boston College of making repeated assurances of their loyalty to the conference. It quotes Miami president Donna Shalala on March 6, 2002, reiterating Miami's commitment "in the strongest terms possible, emphatically stating that the University of Miami is in the Big East and has no interest in leaving it for any other conference."

Based on that statement, and others like it, the lawsuit says several Big East schools financed major construction projects.

For instance, Virginia Tech invested about $37 million in the second phase of expansion of its football stadium. UConn completed a $90 million construction project on a stadium as part of plans for its football program to begin play in the Big East in 2005.

At a news conference to discuss the lawsuit, Connecticut Gov. John Rowland said the decision was a matter of integrity for Miami and BC.

"Today's action is not just about lost revenue, but rather the importance of maintaining viable and successful intercollegiate competition and honoring long-standing commitments," Rowland said.

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 Conference Dilemma
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