- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

ACC presidents had their fifth teleconference of the month last night and the 31/2-hour call again failed to produce the necessary seven votes from among the nine schools to approve expansion, according to a source from a member school.

That left prospective newcomers Miami, Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech with just five days before fees to leave the Big East for the 2004-2005 school year double to $2million apiece.

What once seemed the inevitable switch of Miami, Syracuse and Boston College from the Big East to the ACC now might be the least likely option from a group of proposals that include: also adding Virginia Tech for a total of 13 schools; substituting Virginia Tech for Syracuse or Boston College; merely growing to 10 members with the addition of Miami.

While the presidents from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, N.C. State and Wake Forest remained unable to convince their recalcitrant colleagues from Duke, North Carolina and Virginia to vote for a major expansion, the idea of just Miami making the switch from the Big East picked up steam yesterday.

Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy had made that suggestion in exchange for his school and fellow Big East members Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and West Virginia dropping their lawsuit against the ACC. Preliminary arguments are scheduled for tomorrow in Connecticut Superior Court.

North Carolina chancellor James Moeser and Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski — with the support of university president Nan Keohane — backed Mulcahy’s proposal yesterday since Miami is more in the ACC’s existing geographic realm than Syracuse or Boston College.

“Including Miami creates a geographically contiguous footprint that is not unmanageable,” Moeser wrote in an e-mail obtained by the Greensboro News & Record.

“There’s a reason why the United States doesn’t have a state in France or Venezuela,” Krzyzewski said. “We don’t belong there. That doesn’t mean we don’t deal with them. There is a lot to be said about your geographic landscape. You don’t just go in and say, ‘I’m going to take you, you and you.’ I hope we mend fences because we’ve obviously gone into another person’s yard with our tractor-trailer and knocked down a few trees.”

Krzyzewski also said that the ACC should try to change the NCAA rule that prevents conferences from staging football championship games unless they have at least 12 members. The creation of such an event — expected to generate at least $10million in revenue — was the impetus for the ACC’s expansion plans.

“Moses didn’t bring it down from the mountain top,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s not etched in stone,” he said. “Why not attack the rule and say, ‘Look, why can’t we have a playoff with 10 teams?’”

Big East founder Dave Gavitt also endorsed Mulcahy’s plan and proposed a title game to be played by the champions of the conferences and noting that former ACC commissioners Bob James and Gene Corrigan were helpful when the Big East was formed.

While North Carolina and Duke have been adamantly opposed to the 12-team league, Virginia, under pressure from Gov. Mark Warner, has been the decisive third negative vote.

Warner has demanded that Virginia Tech not be left in a shattered Big East if the ACC expanded. Virginia Tech president Charles Steger has said that he wouldn’t accept an invitation if offered by the ACC, but several members of the school’s Board of Visitors have indicated they would be willing to listen.

Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist is ready to enter the fray on Miami’s behalf. Crist is expected to ask Connecticut Superior Court Judge Samuel Sferrazza to dismiss the Big East schools’ suit.

“This is a fundamental dispute among athletic conferences and universities,” said Crist, who also has the support of ACC member Florida State. “Universities have the right to join any conference that invites them. In our nation the rule of law is paramount, and the law clearly gives the University of Miami the right to control its own destiny.”

Under the Big East’s bylaws, any school withdrawing from the conference by Monday must pay $1million. That penalty doubles on Tuesday.

To complicate matters further, there have been reports that Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami would consider leaving their leagues for what would be a 16-team Southeastern Conference if ACC expansion collapses. Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips dismissed the idea as idle speculation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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