- Associated Press - Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Atlantic Coast Conference has received application letters from Pittsburgh and Syracuse to join the league, a move that would leave the Big East scrambling to replace two of its longest tenured members.

Florida State President Eric Barron told The Associated Press on Saturday before the Seminoles played No. 1 Oklahoma that the ACC was excited about adding to its “northern tier.”

“Pittsburgh and Syracuse, who have applied, these are solid academic schools, and the ACC is a truly academic conference,” Barron said. “Certainly great basketball teams, a good history of football.

“I’m sure consideration will be very fast. I’ll be surprised if it’s not tomorrow (Sunday).”

But USA Today reported early Sunday that the ACC presidents had already voted on Saturday morning to accept Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the league. Citing an anonymous source, the newspaper said the ACC was still considering adding two other East Coast teams and that Connecticut and Rutgers would be the candidates.

ACC officials have scheduled a 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday teleconference but did not disclose the subject of the call.

Barron confirmed that 11 of 12 ACC presidents attended a meeting in Greensboro, N.C., on Tuesday _ the other participated by phone _ and unanimously approved raising the exit fee to $20 million _ up from $12 million to $14 million _ for any member leaving the conference.

“The great thing is that the conference is strong and committed to a unanimous commitment to staying together,” North Carolina State Chancellor Randy Woodson said. “And to the extent that this is kind of a dramatic shift in conferences, we’re trying to be proactive and stay strong.”

The Big East’s exit fee is $5 million, though schools wanting to leave must provide 27 months’ notice.

A jump by Pittsburgh and Syracuse could lead to another dramatic shuffle in college athletics. Texas A&M already has announced its intention to join the Southeastern Conference, leaving the future of the Big 12 in doubt. The board of regents at Oklahoma and Texas are meeting Monday to discuss the possibility of the universities leaving that conference.

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement that he was very disappointed to learn that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were in discussions with the ACC.

“I continue to believe the BIG EAST Conference is well positioned for the future and that the events of the past 24 hours will unify our membership,” he said. “We have been working steadily to solidify and strengthen the BIG EAST Conference and position us for our upcoming TV negotiations, and I am confident that we will again emerge from this situation and remain strong.”

Pittsburgh spokesman E.J. Borghetti said athletic director Steve Pederson wouldn’t comment. Syracuse AD Daryl Gross also declined comment.

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said he believed the departures were a done deal.

“I think it was kind of a shock to everybody,” he said. “We’ll have to work around it. … There was a lot of tradition in both programs. They brought a lot to the Big East. We’ll pick up the pieces and surround ourselves with other teams that are out there. We all have to follow the landscape.”

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