- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

So it’s going to be Miami and Virginia Tech joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. No Syracuse, no Boston College. Not to make light of the situation, but you can understand why Hokies football coach Frank Beamer was hospitalized for chest pains Monday night. The ACC’s expansion soap opera has had more twists and turns than Chubby Checker.

There were so many different scenarios, I half expected to open the newspaper one morning and read: “University of Chicago returning to big-time football; will join ACC.”

Of all the proposals discussed, though, this one might make the most sense. Granted, Big East football has been dealt a terrible blow, but it’s not like Miami and Virginia Tech are charter members of the conference — or anything close. They both came aboard in 1991, and Tech didn’t compete in Big East basketball until three years ago. Before that, it cooled its Converses in the Atlantic 10 for a few seasons (and before that, in the Metro Conference).

Miami and Virginia Tech are two programs that are clearly on the make and have been for years. In fact, I can hear the ACC’s lawyers making precisely that argument should the Big East’s lawsuit ever go to trial:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, only a fool would have believed that these schools would belong to the Big East ‘until death do us part.’ It was always a marriage of convenience, and marriages — particularly in this day and age — have a habit of ending in divorce.”

Then, too, Virginia Tech has a prior association with most of the ACC. From the ‘20s to the early ‘50s, it was a member of the Southern Conference — along with Maryland, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson and Wake Forest. In 1953, those schools broke away to form their own conference; so, in a sense, the Hokies are coming “home.”

(Besides, it’s not as if the Big East has been particularly nice to Tech. The Hokies haven’t shared in conference basketball revenue since they became a member and — get this — they still figure to be paying their $2.5million Big East entry fee, in annual installments, after they leave.)

Syracuse and Boston College are a different story. No one this side of Nostradamus could have foreseen that they might bolt the Big East. Why, they helped bring the conference into being in 1979 — as a hoops consortium, let’s not forget. The football came later. If the ACC had taken Syracuse and BC, it would have looked much more rapacious. Or is it gluttonous?

A Virginia Tech alum, a lawyer with eight season tickets to Hokies football games, has been e-mailing me madly the past couple of months, keeping me abreast of the situation in Blacksburg and giving me, pro bono, a legal view of things. (He’s also been entertaining me with his repeated references to Miami’s president, Donna “Sha-lie-la.”)

Robert, as he bills himself, has assured me all along — well, almost all along — that his alma mater would come out of this smelling like Jill Arrington. He’s proven very good at reading between the lines, at interpreting facial expressions and body language. A few days ago, after the Tech-to-the-ACC buzz began getting louder, he wrote of the conference’s rejection of the Hokies in the past and huffed: “The ACC has been a harsh mistress to the Hokies over the years and has made it clear it wants no part of Virginia Tech. If this latest show of interest results in an ACC invitation and a VT acceptance, then Satan’s going to need snow booties and a pair of furry earmuffs.”

Translation: Hell will indeed have frozen over.

But the pursuit of the athletic buck makes strange bedfellows. We live in an era in which Louisiana-Lafayette and Idaho compete in the same conference (the Sun Belt), in which Tulsa has clasped hands with Hawaii (in the WAC). Virginia Tech in the ACC seems almost logical by comparison (especially if you don’t know the back story).

Alas, the whole sordid process has left Robert somewhat disillusioned — but only somewhat. Then his school spirit starts flickering, and he talks excitedly about Virginia Tech basketball possibly getting “a huge boost from this.”

But wait, there’s more:

“If we come in,” he predicts, “we will be the New York Yankees of the ACC, the team everyone loves to hate. Our fans will buy up any tickets available and travel to all the road games in North Carolina and Maryland, ensuring that we will make as many enemies as possible. Games at Duke and Wake suddenly become a home game for us.”

That might explain the sudden attractiveness of Virginia Tech, apart from the political maneuverings of Gov. Mark Warner and others: fewer empty seats in football. Here’s wishing Frank Beamer a speedy recovery. His new conference needs him — almost as much as his old conference.

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