- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The ACC expansion plan remains only a proposal.

The presidents of the ACC schools held a conference call yesterday afternoon in which many anticipated a final vote to invite Miami, Boston College and Syracuse to join a 12-school superconference. Instead, no vote was taken in a move that suggests momentum for the plan has slowed after a lawsuit was filed and several critics spoke up over the past week.

“No conclusions were reached nor were any intended to be reached,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. “There will be further discussions, and as has been the case throughout this process, there is no definitive timetable.”

The three potential new members participated in the call, and all had been expected to accept invitations immediately if offered. Swofford called the meeting an “integral part of an ongoing process.”

Apparently, Swofford did not have the necessary seven votes from the nine ACC schools to approve the deal. The expansion has come under scrutiny recently after a lawsuit from the five Big East football schools not involved with the expansion and concerns from ACC members North Carolina and Duke.

Yesterday Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who has urged the university to vote against any expansion that doesn’t include Virginia Tech, became the latest to inject his ideas into the process. The governor is pushing for the NCAA to mediate the ACC’s proposed expansion to avoid a long and costly legal battle. The NCAA previously had stated that conference realignment is not part of its jurisdiction.

Ultimately, Virginia president John Casteen may cast the vote that decides the expansion as well as the direction of the ACC and Big East. Casteen originally voted for an expansion to 12 members but later had his plan to include Virginia Tech in the process voted down.

Several schools hoped the ACC could finalize the expansion yesterday despite the impending lawsuit. A 12-team league with a football championship game seemed all but official after the ACC completed visits to the three potential new members. The good vibes changed Friday when five Big East members made a pre-emptive strike in court. Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh accused Miami, Boston College and the ACC of illegally conspiring in secret expansion meetings in a premeditated plot to destroy the Big East.

The suit claimed Big East schools that would be left behind had made significant investments based on long-term commitments stated by Miami and Boston College. Syracuse was not named in the suit. Connecticut is finishing a $90million, 40,000-seat football stadium, and Virginia Tech made a $37million renovation to Lane Stadium.

Swofford said over the weekend that the suit has no merit and would not impede expansion plans.

The conference call also came on the heels of Duke and North Carolina raising concerns about the plan. The pair indicated they would vote against final expansion unless several aspects are addressed. Although the two schools first voted against expansion, once it was approved by a 7-2 margin they voted to enter into formal talks with Miami, Boston College and Syracuse.

“I voted in favor of entering formal conversations for collegial reasons,” Duke president Nan Keohane wrote in an e-mail to ACC presidents Friday. “I believe that was the right decision at the time. However, I am now concerned that the kinds of substantive discussions we anticipated before a final vote would be taken have not materialized and show no prospect of doing so.”

One sticking point is the plan to create two six-team divisions. Some schools want separate divisions for revenue and nonrevenue sports. Miami and Florida State want to be in opposite divisions for football, which would rule out a geographic divide between northern and southern schools.

Concerns about travel costs in a sprawling league and the welfare of students also have been raised.

The real deadline seems to be June30, when the three Big East schools will face an extra $1million fine if they haven’t given the league notice by then.

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