- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Miami accepted an invitation to join the ACC yesterday, ending a turbulent two-month expansion process that prompted a lawsuit, saw two original candidates suddenly abandoned and an unlikely newcomer brought into the fold.

Miami chose to join the ACC instead of remaining in the Big East, which had made a furious attempt over the past week to keep the Hurricanes, one of the nation’s most successful football programs.

With the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech — a surprise, late compromise choice over Boston College and Syracuse — the ACC gains two prestigious football teams whose basketball counterparts won’t threaten the league’s traditional powerhouses.

The two schools likely will begin play in the ACC in 2005, though a 2004 start is possible.



The addition raises the ACC’s membership to 11 schools. A 12th may be added in the next year, a likelihood that increases if the NCAA denies the conference’s request to lower the 12-school limit required for a league to stage a conference football championship game. Such a game is expected to generate about $10million.

East Carolina already is positioning itself for a bid. Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers also might be considered.

Miami president Donna Shalala chose the ACC, which had a $9.7million payout last year, $700,000 more than the Big East’s recent offer.

The announcement was made yesterday because the $1million exit fee the school is required to pay the Big East would have doubled today. Miami also must pay a $2million entrance fee to the ACC.

“It has been a bizarre, strange and goofy process,” Shalala said. “But it has allowed us the opportunity to have the distance to decide who we are, where we are and where we want to go.”

The ACC is scheduled to hold a news conference tonight, when the conference’s new divisional alignment could be revealed.

One plan would keep a one-division system in football in which each team plays a designated rival plus eight of the other nine conference foes in an annual rotation. A plan considered for basketball would create two divisions in which teams would play divisional foes and two nondivision rivals twice a year.

For instance, Maryland would play Duke and Virginia twice each year even if they’re not in the same division. Teams would play the remaining teams in the other division once a season.

“The expanded ACC positions us as a conference for a competitive and bright future,” Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “In every regard, Miami and Virginia Tech are a good fit for our conference.”

Said Virginia president John Casteen: “This expansion will strengthen the ACC within its existing geographical footprint. … It also leaves open the possibility at some future time of another step that we favor — addition of a 12th member university.”

The addition of Miami and Virginia Tech will help make the ACC — it already includes perenially ranked teams such as Maryland, N.C. State, Florida State and Virginia — one of the country’s top football conferences.

“These are two national powers when it comes to football and, with the advances our league has made in the last few years, I believe it makes us one of the strongest conferences in college football,” Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen said. “The only drawback I see for myself, personally, is that I really don’t like playing against my close friends [like Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer].”

Even skeptical ACC officials rallied around the expansion, which seemed as if it would include either three Big East teams or just Miami. But a late move — after Virginia Gov. Mark Warner flexed his political muscle to keep Virginia from approving the expansion unless the Hokies were involved — resulted in the surprising addition of only Virginia Tech and Miami.

Seven votes were necessary for expansion, and with Duke and North Carolina opposed, Virginia’s vote was needed.

North Carolina chancellor James Moeser wanted only Miami but endorsed the two-team addition partly because both were Southern schools.

“Despite the concerns I have expressed about expansion, we at Carolina are committed to making it work,” Moeser said. “The strengths of this conference have always been its wonderful culture and great collegial relationships among member institutions, and I am confident those strengths will continue as we move forward.”

However, Big East members Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia and Pittsburgh will continue their lawsuit against Miami and the ACC for reportedly harming the league financially by taking two marquee football teams.

“I’m disappointed that Miami has chosen to go to the ACC,” Syracuse chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw said. “The presidents and athletic directors of the Big East Football Conference made a strong competitive offer to keep Miami as a member of the conference. To their credit, Miami gave us every opportunity to do so. … But it is now time for us to move on, to move forward. And we will. The Big East is alive and well.”

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