|Wednesday, June 25
'Unexpected vote' forces others to move on
ESPN.com news services
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- In the most surprising move of the Atlantic Coast Conference's six-week expansion saga, the league has decided to invite only Miami and Virginia Tech.
The move to go to 11 schools wasn't one of the many scenarios presented since the ACC's vote to expand on May 13.
The Hokies are expected to accept their invitation possibly as early as Wednesday night, ESPN.com has learned, while Miami officials were deliberating Wednesday afternoon in preparation for what is expected to be acceptance, barring some financial concerns the university has about joining an 11-team conference without Northeast schools Boston College and Syracuse or a guarantee of a football championship game.
Virginia Tech wants to be a member of the same conference as Virginia, much like a North Carolina State/North Carolina pairing. Tech's move to the ACC is considered a slam dunk for the university's non-revenue sports because at least half of the ACC's campuses are within driving distance from Blacksburg.
After a 2½-hour conference call Tuesday night, ACC commissioner John Swofford refused to comment on whether Miami and Virginia Tech -- the Big East's two dominant football schools -- had been offered invitations to join.
Sources told ESPN that the vote was 7-2 in favor of inviting the Hurricanes and the Hokies.
"We're very close to bringing this to a conclusion. I would expect us to have an announcement in the next couple of days," Swofford said.
On Wednesday, however, Boston College and Syracuse issued statements that said the ACC decided to invite Miami and Virginia Tech to join the conference. Boston College and Syracuse were two of the three Big East schools the ACC had visited, along with Miami, with a view toward expansion.
"This unexpected vote ended our discussions with the ACC," the BC statement said.
"We knew all along that the principal decision would be made by the Council of Presidents. After having successfully completed the process as defined by the ACC, we are disappointed that a decision like this was made," the Syracuse statement said.
Also on Wednesday, Virginia Tech's governing board unanimously authorized president Charles Steger to negotiate a deal with the ACC.
Voting at a hastily called meeting in Roanoke, Va., the Board of Visitors gave Steger the authority to talk to ACC leaders about joining the league and to make the decision himself on whether to make the move.
Steger said afterward that the ACC still has not formally invited Virginia Tech to join, but that if an offer came, "we would be inclined to accept it."
ACC spokesman Brian Morrison said a four- or five-member delegation from the league went to Blacksburg, Va., on Wednesday for a site visit, as required by ACC bylaws.
Miami sports information director Mark Pray told The Associated Press that the school would have no comment until the ACC announced its plans.
"We're very close to being at the end of this," Swofford told reporters outside ACC headquarters Tuesday night. He said the ACC presidents do not have another teleconference scheduled.
"Each conference call has taken us a step further and this was the closest one to the end," he said.
The ACC presidents voted to expand on May 13, and conference officials visited Miami, Boston College and Syracuse to assess their facilities. Virginia Tech came into the picture last week, as part of a compromise suggested by Virginia president John T. Casteen III.
Virginia Tech was one of five Big East football schools that filed a lawsuit June 6 to try to stop BC, Miami and Syracuse from leaving the conference. Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West Virginia were the other parties to the suit.
Connecticut president Philip Austin said Virginia Tech did not participate Wednesday in a conference call among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Austin would not say what was discussed on the call.
"Until we get a better sense, an accurate sense, we have no comment," he said. "My objective since day one has been to keep the Big East together as we know it."
A Connecticut judge is scheduled to hear preliminary arguments Thursday in the suit.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the new expansion plan will not affect the lawsuit.
"Even if the deal is different, our determination is undiminished to hold accountable Miami and the ACC," Blumenthal said late Tuesday. "We will vigorously pursue our legal claims to protect the Big East and recover for the harm done. Our legal cause is alive and well."
In Tallahassee, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said Tuesday he was prepared to intervene on behalf of Miami in the suit. Crist said Miami has the right to choose the conference it wants to play in.
"This is a fundamental dispute among athletic conferences and universities," said Crist, who was asked by Miami to intercede. "Universities have the right to join any conference that invites them. The law does not compel Miami, or any institution, to rebuff a legitimate overture, as long as existing contractual obligations are satisfied."
If the ACC expands to 11 members, it would be one short of the number necessary to hold a football conference championship game.
The ACC could seek a waiver of the requirement, but Steve Mallonee, the NCAA's Division I associate chief of staff, said Wednesday he was unaware of any such request.
Mallonee said no conference has asked for a waiver since the rule was added in 1987.
"The conference has to give reasons why the administrative rules committee should set aside the rule," Mallonee said. "Legislation is generally the better route. They have until July 15 to submit a legislative change."
Tuesday's conference call was the fifth time in two weeks that the presidents met via phone as they tried to finalize possible expansion. Such an expansion could lead to a lucrative conference football title game and television contract.
Any school leaving the Big East will have to pay a $1 million penalty, and that amount doubles if the school leaves after June 30.
Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz was used in this report.