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Wednesday, June 18
Updated: June 20, 7:36 PM ET
ACC presidents hope Hokies will push deal news services

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Tech was given a chance to join three Big East schools that might jump leagues, another step in the possible expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

ACC presidents decided Wednesday to reconsider the Hokies for admission into their planned superconference. The move would create a 13-team ACC if approved, and could free Virginia president John T. Casteen III from having to cast a decisive vote.

The idea was presented to Virginia Tech president Charles M. Steger in a meeting with Georgia Tech president G. Wayne Clough on Wednesday night, two sources told The Associated Press. The government and college sources spoke to the AP on the condition they not be identified.

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver met with Steger on Thursday. He said Steger and Clough spoke Wednesday night, but added the Hokies "have not received an official invitation and that's the extent of it."

School officials also released a statement, saying "the expansion plans are the work of the ACC, and we have to wait and see what the ACC wants to do."

A source close to the process told's Andy Katz that he wouldn't be surprised if the ACC went one step further and expanded to 14 and split into two seven-team divisions. If that were to happen -- the Big East is a 14-team basketball conference -- then expansion could include a fifth Big East team, possibly Connecticut. The source also said expansion almost certainly will take effect in 2005-06, when television contracts expire for the college football's BCS in both conferences.

"If these reports are accurate, the ACC apparently will stop at nothing to destroy the Big East as a football conference," said 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.

"We have continued to receive assurances from Virginia Tech that it is committed to protecting the Big East and that it, in good conscience, could not accept an offer from the ACC," Fabiani said in a statement Wednesday. "For our part, we will continue to do everything possible to keep the Big East intact, including pursuing all of our available legal options."

Clough, a former dean of the college of engineering at Virginia Tech, told The AP on Wednesday night that he and Steger are longtime friends and that he met with him to see what his thoughts were about the situation, and what Virginia Tech's options were.

"It was a friend to a friend and I said any information I got from the meeting I would take back to my colleagues," Clough said.

He said he didn't meet with Steger in any official ACC capacity.

ACC spokesman Brian Morrison said no league member is authorized to act on behalf of the conference, and said that no invitations have been extended.

The decision to reconsider Virginia Tech was made during a three-hour teleconference of the nine league presidents after it appeared the original expansion plan involving Miami, Boston College and Syracuse would not get the required seven votes for approval, a government source with knowledge of the talks told The AP.

Casteen, whose suggestion that the Hokies be included in an expansion plan was rejected by the league presidents last month, pledged then to continue pushing for Virginia Tech. His suggestion that they be reconsidered Wednesday came in the third of three lengthy conference calls that have all ended without a consensus reached.

If the Hokies agree to be included, it would mark yet another about-face for the school, which has at times pursued inclusion in the ACC plan and at times decried the raid that would leave the rest of the Big East with an uncertain future.

Virginia Tech also is one of five Big East football schools that filed suit June 6 accusing the ACC, Miami and Boston College of conspiring to destroy the Big East.

Casteen has been under pressure from Gov. Mark R. Warner and other state officials to do whatever he could to protect Virginia Tech's athletic viability. Casteen left on a European vacation after the teleconference and was not available for comment.

The ACC's expansion plan once looked like a certainty, but that was before officials at Duke and North Carolina raised concerns about travel costs, student welfare and projected revenues of an ACC football title game and future TV contracts.

The league's apparent failure to allay those concerns would have left Casteen in a position to cast the vote that either killed the deal -- or wounded Virginia Tech.

Morrison said ACC commissioner John Swofford would have no comment on the issues discussed in Wednesday's teleconference, or when another would be scheduled.

Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general for Connecticut, where the suit was filed, called the offer to include Virginia Tech "another sign that the ACC is desperate and divided, and that it's real goal is to destroy the Big East as we know it."

On Friday, Blumenthal continued to criticize the ACC's stance.

"The ACC is so blinded by its obsession to win at all costs that it will expand, even though adding a fourth Big East school will reduce revenue for the ACC's universities -- undermining the ACC's original justification for its Big East raid," Blumenthal said in a statement. "The ACC has -- and continues -- to engage in actions that they will be held responsible for.

"As of today, Virginia Tech is still a member of the Big East and an active plaintiff in our lawsuit. So far as we know, it remains committed to our legal cause and has no intention to defect from the Big East and accept the ACC's importunings. We will not speculate on what actions, if any, we will take if Virginia Tech defects."

If the Big East schools leave for the ACC, they each must pay a $1 million exit fee. The penalty doubles after June 30.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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