- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2003

How about afterthought Virginia Tech joining the ACC without top target Miami? That possibility is the latest twist in the ongoing soap opera surrounding the conference’s raid on the Big East.

Miami officials said yesterday that the school is considering counterproposals to remain in the Big East after the ACC extended invitations late Tuesday to the Hurricanes and the Hokies. The 19-member executive committee of Miami’s board of trustees met with university president Donna Shalala and athletic director Paul Dee for more than an hour to discuss the ACC’s invitation. Shalala said that no vote was taken by the executive committee and that Miami’s final decision will be announced Monday.

That’s also the last day before the penalty to leave the Big East doubles to $2million. Earlier during this six-week saga, the Big East had guaranteed Miami $45million over five years to stay put, but that hadn’t swayed Shalala and Co.

“The Big East has informally sent a proposal, or at least a list of proposals, to us and we feel a responsibility to review them,” Shalala said.

The Rev. William Leahy, Boston College’s president spoke with Shalala on Wednesday night and believes she is “torn.”

However, there were no second thoughts in Blacksburg about leaving the Big East for the ACC.

“Virginia Tech has longed to be in the ACC for a long period of time,” Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver said. “There’s no question that the ACC will be our permanent home [after previous stints in the Metro, Atlantic 10 and Big East conferences]. It’s a good geographical fit. Our fans are more familiar with the ACC schools than those in the Big East. And we’ve had a long-standing relationship with almost every one of them.”

Meanwhile, a lawsuit by four Big East schools got under way with a preliminary hearing in Connecticut Superior Court. The lawsuit contends that Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia and Pittsburgh — Virginia Tech relinquished its plaintiff status Wednesday after the ACC’s offer — have spent millions on their football programs based on presumed loyalty from the other schools. Syracuse was never a defendant because Big East attorneys contended that only Boston College and Miami were trying to sabotage the conference. BC was dropped as a defendant on Wednesday after, like Syracuse, being rejected by the ACC.

Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza rejected a defense attempt to move the lawsuit out of Tolland County, where UConn is located. ACC attorneys had argued that jurors would be biased in favor of the Huskies.

“This does not appear to be a local case with local issues,” Sferrazza said.

Sferrazza plans to rule today on Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s request to speed up the evidence gathering. Blumenthal asked the judge to order several parties, including Shalala, to give depositions or sworn testimony as early as Tuesday.

“Our determination is undiminished to hold accountable Miami and the ACC,” Blumenthal said. “We will vigorously pursue our legal claims to protect the Big East and recover for the harm done.”

Blumenthal believes Boston College’s shift from defendant to assistant for the plaintiffs could prove a boon to his case.

“We’re hoping their cooperation will shed light on some of the secret, back-room discussions in this continuing conspiracy,” he said.

Steve Errante, the New Haven attorney representing the ACC, said a motion to dismiss the case would be filed in the next couple of weeks. Attorneys are due back in court on July14 for a closed-door meeting.

According to the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the additions of Virginia Tech and Miami as the ACC’s 10th and 11th members passed by 7-2 votes of the Council of Presidents on Tuesday. The group then discussed adding Syracuse and Boston College. Syracuse was deemed to have shown less passion for changing leagues, and BC fell short when N.C. State’s Marye Anne Fox sided with naysayers Duke and North Carolina.

“It wasn’t easy leaving Boston College out, but it made no sense for traveling purposes to have just one school in the Northeast,” said a president, who asked to remain anonymous. “There was also sentiment to leave the spot open for a while and see what develops.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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