- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

The ACC won’t split into divisions when it expands to 11 teams in 2004, but it will add two play-in games for the men’s basketball tournament.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said last night that the league would be divided into two divisions for football only if the NCAA allows a conference championship game to be staged or a 12th team is added.

The ACC will petition the NCAA in coming weeks to waive its requirement that a conference have at least 12 teams in order to hold a title game — a game that could bring the ACC $10 million in TV revenue. Swofford said last night the conference has no immediate plans for expansion.

“We are where we are — at 11,” Swofford said. “A number of our schools are very interested at some given point at looking at 12. There’s no particular timetable for that. I don’t think there’s any absolute guarantee that will happen.”

Swofford also said the conference will not be split into divisions for basketball regardless of the number of teams.

During a news conference in Greensboro, N.C., to welcome Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC following seven weeks of talks, Swofford admitted the turbulent expansion process was at times flawed. He called the site visits to Boston College and Syracuse “unfair” to the schools, given that no invitation to join the ACC followed.

Swofford said the conference bylaws governing expansion also may change, including the number of votes needed for approval. Swofford declined to reveal how the ACC’s schools voted on the admission of Miami and Virginia Tech, though Duke and North Carolina were openly opposed.

However, Swofford also defended the beleaguered expansion process, saying it would have been riskier for the ACC to remain a nine-member league.

“This exercise has been about positioning our conference for the future,” he said. “The ACC is stronger today than yesterday and may well be at its strongest point in history. We’re much better equipped as a conference to meet the challenges of tomorrow in a better way. Some would like the world to stay where it is … but it seldom, if ever, does in athletics or any part of life.”

Said Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman: “This has been a long twisting, unpredictable and often frustrating path.”

Indeed, Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said he didn’t expect to join the ACC after a May16 meeting with Swofford failed to make his school one of the league’s three original candidates.

However, political leverage by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner to control Virginia’s pivotal vote needed to reach the required seven of nine approvals led to the compromise decision.

Dr. Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Tech and the ACC Council of Presidents, said the two newcomers’ proximity weighed heavily in expansion.

“Extending the geographic footprint to the south of Florida will enhance our impact nationally,” Clough said. “We believe the best days of the ACC lie ahead.”

Swofford said scheduling would be one of the toughest challenges in integrating the two schools into the conference.

The ACC expects to follow the Big 10’s format in which the 11 football teams play one rival and seven rotated opponents annually. Miami and Virginia Tech each can handle eight conference football games in 2004 by substituting seven Big East games and an existing rivalry against an ACC team.

“You don’t necessarily have to re-invent the wheel,” Swofford said. “We need to take the Big 10 model as a jumping off place and then see if we need to change or tweak that.”

Swofford pledged to protect existing rivalries. Already, Miami plays Florida State and Virginia Tech faces Virginia each year.

“One common thread is a desire to maintain those special rivalries that exist throughout the conference,” he said.

Basketball will end the traditional home-and-away format against all teams.

Instead, some teams will continue to play each other twice each season and play other teams just once. Teams could also schedule a second non-conference game against an ACC team that wouldn’t count in the league standings.

The men’s basketball tournament, considered the conference’s marquee event, will continue with four Friday games. However, the Thursday night play-in will expand to three games. No play-in game winner has ever won the following day.

Swofford was uncertain whether the ACC tournament’s site would be impacted by expansion given both teams are in existing member states. Tournament sites have been chosen through 2011, including MCI Center in 2005.

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