- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 22, 2003

Virginia Tech’s invitation to join the ACC remained pending yesterday after university presidents failed to agree upon several expansion scenarios.

Growing to 13 teams with Syracuse, Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech, expanding to 12 by not taking Syracuse or Boston College, or just adding Miami were among the plans discussed by the nine presidents via teleconference, according to ACC sources. The panel didn’t approve any one plan despite the goal of completing expansion by June30, when the four Big East Conference teams must declare their departure or pay double the $1million exit fee.

ACC officials issued a brief statement that the conference had made progress on a “number of questions” and expected to complete expansion by June30. Conversely, ACC officials have also said they’re not bound to make a decision by then.

The meeting followed a teleconference among ACC athletic directors Friday that left many blindsided by the presidents’ move in suddenly adding Virginia Tech to the considerations two days earlier, ACC sources said. Some ADs don’t want to expand beyond 12 teams because it probably would cause the existing nine teams to receive less than the $9.7million each received last year.

The ACC already must generate $30million more in a 12-team league, which ACC leaders believe can be gained through a football championship game and a new TV contract that would include larger markets in Miami, Boston and upstate New York. However, a 13th team wouldn’t add any significant revenues while decreasing the splits. It also would force the ACC to generate $126million, nearly $40million more than last year and $25million more than the Southeastern Conference’s record performance in 2002-2003.

The ACC is considering Virginia Tech because that school must be included to earn the University of Virginia’s swing vote for any expansion. Virginia Gov. Mark Warner overrode Virginia leaders’ expected endorsement to protect Virginia Tech from playing in a diminished Big East. Adding Virginia Tech to the ACC would gain Warner’s favor, and the conference would reach the needed seven of nine approvals. North Carolina and Duke are firmly against expansion. The ACC thought it still had the needed votes before visiting the three Big East schools only to be surprised by Warner’s action.

However, 13 schools may be too many for some members, so a smaller 12-team league — without Boston College or Syracuse — also was discussed. Miami has long wanted both fellow Big East teams to follow it to the ACC because of many Miami alumni in the Northeast.

The possibility of taking Miami now and adding two more schools later also is gaining momentum among the presidents. Miami is the expansion prize anyway, and there’s still another year to examine different schools given the 2005 target for expansion. However, a scramble for teams among several conferences following the ACC’s decision is expected, and the conference risks losing potential newcomers to other leagues or having the Big East strengthen its hold on members.

The presidents also have considered a 14-team league. If it does expand to 13 teams, the ACC likely would pursue Notre Dame, Connecticut or Rutgers as a 14th. West Virginia, Temple or East Carolina also may be considered.

The presidents are expected to meet again in coming days. If they decide to pursue Virginia Tech, ACC officials would have to quickly travel to Blacksburg, Va., for a mandatory site visit before voting. Several of Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors have reportedly said they would favor entering the ACC despite past comments that the Hokies were no longer interested after unsuccessfully lobbying the league during its initial three-team expansion plans in April.

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