- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Miami and Virginia Tech are going to be issued invitations to come aboard while Syracuse and Boston College will stay put in the Big East after a surprising vote by the ACC presidents that concluded a 31/2-hour conference call, sources told The New York Times and ESPN late last night.

The 7-2 vote by the leaders of the nine current ACC schools approved a halfway measure between the majority’s hoped-for expansion to 12 teams and adding only Miami, a concept that had gained momentum during the day with Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski adding his support to that of North Carolina chancellor James Moeser. However, Virginia president John Casteen — prodded by Gov. Mark Warner — apparently held firm on his resolve to oppose expansion unless state rival Virginia Tech was included.

Concerns about the geographic unwieldiness of a conference extending from Boston to Miami (even though that’s what the Big East currently does) raised by Moeser and Krzyzewski seemingly also turned the tide against inviting Syracuse and Boston College. A 13-school league also was evidently too large for some ACC presidents to swallow.

The problem now is that beginning in 2004-2005, the ACC would have 11 schools, one less than the NCAA requirement for staging a conference football title game that would be expected to bring in more than $10 million and was a major impetus for expansion.

“Moses didn’t bring it down from the mountain top,” Kryzyzewski said of the NCAA rule. “It’s not etched in stone. Why not attack the rule and say, ‘Why can’t we have a playoff with 10 teams?’ ”

Or now, 11, including the Big East’s premier programs, each of which has played for the national championship in recent years.

Virginia Tech president Charles Steger had said earlier this month that he wouldn’t accept an invitation from the ACC, but several members of the school’s Board of Visitors had indicated they would be willing to listen. Steger now faces some serious reconsideration, especially in light of Warner’s battle on behalf of the Blacksburg school.

The ACC’s vote came just six days before the fee for any school wanting to leave the Big East would double to $2 million. And it’s unclear if Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and West Virginia will drop their lawsuit against the ACC for which preliminary arguments are scheduled tomorrow in Connecticut Superior Court.

Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy had suggested on Monday that the suit would be dropped if the ACC agreed to take only Miami from the Big East. Moeser and Krzyzewski — with the support Duke president Nan Keohane — backed Mulcahy’s proposal yesterday since Miami is more in the ACC’s neck of the woods than Syracuse or Boston College.

“Including Miami creates a geographically contiguous footprint that is not unmanageable,” Moeser wrote in an e-mail obtained by the Greensboro News & Record.

“There’s a reason why the United States doesn’t have a state in France or Venezuela,” Kryzyzewski agreed. “We don’t belong there. That doesn’t mean we don’t deal with them. There is a lot to be said about your geographic landscape. You don’t just go in and say, ‘I’m going to take you, you and you.’ I hope we mend fences because we’ve obviously gone into another person’s yard with our tractor-trailer and knocked down a few trees.”

Big East founder Dave Gavitt also endorsed Mulcahy’s plan and proposed a title game to be played by the champions of the conferences and noting that former ACC commissioners Bob James and Gene Corrigan were helpful when the Big East was formed.

Meanwhile, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said yesterday that he was ready to enter the fray on Miami’s behalf. Crist is expected to ask Connecticut Superior Court Judge Samuel Sferrazza to dismiss the Big East schools’ suit.

“This is a fundamental dispute among athletic conferences and universities,” said Crist, who also has the support of ACC member Florida State. “Universities have the right to join any conference that invites them. In our nation the rule of law is paramount, and the law clearly gives the University of Miami the right to control its own destiny.”

There had been reports that Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami would consider leaving their leagues for what would be a 16-team Southeastern Conference if the ACC expansion collapsed. Clemson AD Terry Don Phillips dismissed the idea as idle speculation.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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