- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

A week before the fee for schools to leave the Big East doubles to $2million, the ACC’s expansion plans remained very much in flux yesterday. Another conference call of the presidents of the nine current league members is expected to be held today, but whether the fifth such discussion this month will produce concrete action is hard to say.

No real development emerged from the last conference call, held just three days ago.

“It’s not a concrete wall, but it’s enough of a wall to encourage the participants to do something by that date,” William Latham, a member of Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors, told the New York Times about the June 30 deadline.

ACC presidents voted last month to hold formal talks with Big East members Miami, Syracuse and Boston College about joining the league in hopes of reaching the minimum of 12 schools the NCAA requires to play a lucrative conference football title game. In response, Big East members Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Connecticut filed suit in an attempt to prevent the ACC’s raid on their conference.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Samuel Sferrazza will hear preliminary arguments Thursday, and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has asked the judge to fast-track the case.

ACC members Duke and North Carolina have opposed expanding to 12 schools along with Virginia, under pressure from Gov. Mark Warner, who didn’t want Virginia Tech left in a shrunken Big East. The failure to line up the necessary seven votes for expansion prompted last Wednesday’s proposal to add Virginia Tech even though that would further dilute each school’s share of the enlarged revenue pie. However, Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver pledged his school’s loyalty to the conference at last month’s Big East meetings.

“I’m embarrassed for all of us in the industry, for all of us in higher education,” Seton Hall athletic director Jeff Fogelson told the Star-Ledger of Newark (N.J.). “Every day it’s something different. Now they want to go to 13 teams. What’s next?”

Rutgers AD Robert Mulcahy suggested that the Big East allow perennial football powerhouse Miami to leave for the ACC as long as the rest of the Big East stayed put. The Star-Ledger reported that Mulcahy has the backing of officials from other Big East schools. North Carolina chancellor James Moeser is also a proponent of the concept.

“I would hope Miami would understand our first option is for them to stay,” Mulcahy said. “That would take care of the whole issue. But if they’re uncomfortable and the ACC feels it has to do something, this is a reasonable way for all sides to come out of this.”

However, Miami AD Paul Dee has said that his school doesn’t want to leave for the ACC alone. So another scenario has Miami and Virginia Tech being joined by either Syracuse or Boston College in jumping from the Big East to a 12-team ACC.

“Financially, Syracuse wins hands down,” an unnamed ACC president told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “[But] politically, Virginia Tech might be the only way to go.”

However, the ACC presidents, who sent delegations to Miami, Boston College and Syracuse for site visits, have yet to schedule such a trip to Virginia Tech.

Although Syracuse is the defending NCAA basketball champion and has been a more prominent player in both basketball and football dating back to the late 1980s, Boston is a much bigger media market.

Miami might not want to leave either Syracuse or Boston College behind. Miami pushed for those schools to be included so it could continue to have exposure in the Northeast, from where it has drawn many students. Miami President Donna Shalala is also close to Syracuse Chancellor Kenneth Shaw from their years together in the University of Wisconsin system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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