- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2003

The ACC expansion process has gone from the fast track to slow motion.

The league did not stage a vote on final expansion to admit Miami, Boston College and Syracuse last night despite a second conference call in two days. The lack of progress indicates the expansion could be in jeopardy. As recently as last week, the proposal seemed to have passage guaranteed.

The latest setback comes after the nine ACC presidents held a conference call last night and an appeal from five Big East schools to slow the process and hold a meeting among presidents of both conferences. Last night’s meeting lasted two hours without producing a conclusion.

“We have a lot of issues to address,” N.C. State chancellor Mary Anne Fox told the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer. “I think we’re making progress.”

Some issues that seem to be holding up the process are the new six-team divisions in the potential 12-team league, travel expenses and student welfare issues such as missed class time. The ACC needs seven of nine presidents to pass the expansion plan. North Carolina and Duke have indicated they would be against expansion without further studies.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said no vote was taken yesterday and the presidents’ next call “will take place no sooner than early next week.”

The ACC’s internal issues come as the conference deals with outside perception problems. The five Big East football schools who would be left behind have sued the ACC, Miami and Syracuse to stop the expansion and have been effective painting the ACC as unscrupulous raiders.

The latest ACC setback comes after word that five Big East presidents sent letters to ACC presidents asking for a meeting between the two groups. The letters arrived before yesterday’s teleconference. In a copy of the letter obtained by the Associated Press, the Big East presidents urged ACC leaders to hold off on moving ahead with expansion until they meet.

“We feel quite certain that no ACC president or chancellor would want to rush to judgment on such a potentially harmful plan without having complete information, and we believe we have insights to share that could not be effectively communicated by anyone else,” the letter states.

Maryland president C.D. Mote declined to comment on the letter through a spokesman. A spokesman for Virginia president John Casteen confirmed that Casteen had received the letter and planned to discuss it with his ACC colleagues last night.

The proposed meeting is the latest in a chain of moves by the Big East designed to kill the ACC’s expansion. The five Big East schools — Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and West Virginia — filed suit in a Connecticut state supreme court last Friday to gain an injunction to block the ACC.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner also is trying to squash expansion out of concerns that Virginia Tech will be left out of a major conference. Warner has reiterated his position that Virginia should vote against expansion to help its in-state rival.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia’s interests as a whole will best be ensured with an outcome that keeps both UVa and Virginia Tech in major athletic conferences, with all the attending national prominence and relationships with major universities,” Warner said Tuesday.

Casteen could cast the deciding vote if North Carolina and Duke vote against expansion. Casteen initially voted to expand to 12 teams but was the lone objector when the ACC voted to enter into official talks with the three potential new members. Casteen’s proposal to involve Virginia Tech in the process was voted down.

The expansion has lost considerable steam since it evolved into what many believed was a foregone conclusion in recent weeks. The process has now gone on for nearly a month, and officials in the ACC and from the potential new members have stated there is a limited window of opportunity to close the deal.

“It will be up to the Council [of Presidents] to decide the direction and timing of the process,” Swofford said.

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