- Associated Press - Monday, September 19, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh football coach Todd Graham felt the Panthers were the best team in the Big East when he took over in January.

Now that the school is heading to the ACC, he still likes his chances.

“There’s not anything that doesn’t get better because of this,” Graham said Monday following a busy weekend in which program joined Syracuse in bolting the Big East for the ACC.

Sure, the road to a conference title and the automatic BCS bowl berth that comes with it will be more difficult whenever the Panthers officially move. It hardly matters to Graham, who figures the benefits _ namely increased television revenue and a greater geographic reach recruiting _ far outweigh the cost.

“Naturally the TV market, the East Coast, the recruiting base, all those things I think is something that we’re very excited about, very appreciative of this opportunity,” Graham said.

One that seemed to be borne out of necessity.

The university understood the Big East was on shaky ground and didn’t hesitate when ACC commissioner Jim Swofford reached out to Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson in the middle of last week, starting a whirlwind courtship that ended with the Panthers and the Orange _ both original members of the Big East _ joining former conference mates Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College in the new-look ACC.

Things happened so quickly, neither Graham or basketball coach Jamie Dixon had the chance to tell their players what’s going on.

Pitt wide receiver Devin Street is still waiting for Graham to break the news.

“(Coach) really didn’t tell us yet,” Street said with a laugh. “I just heard about it and it’s been publicized a lot. I’m sure he’ll tell us on Tuesday.”

By then, the now 14-team ACC could get even bigger.

Dixon left for a recruiting trip to New Zealand last week and came home to find his team, a perennial contender for the Big East title, shuffled off to a conference whose hub is Tobacco Road, not Dixon’s favored New York City.

Dixon joked he’s already petitioned Swofford to move the ACC tournament to Madison Square Garden. Unlikely, though Dixon believes the ACC will have even more Big East flavor when the shuffling finally stops.

“We’re going to have a lot of Big East schools that are going to be with us in the ACC,” he said.

When? Who knows?

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