- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2003

Maryland has supported expanding the ACC since the effort began last month, and Virginia provided the decisive vote that will allow Virginia Tech and Miami to become members of the conference Monday, assuming the agreement of officials in Coral Gables.

However, the Terrapins and Cavaliers soon might look back with regret at their decisions, especially in football, which drove the ACC expansion to 11 schools.

Since coach Ralph Friedgen took over Maryland’s mediocre program in 2001, the Terps have zoomed to the ACC’s top level, just behind perennial champion Florida State. And with Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden nearing retirement, Friedgen had to be thinking his Terps soon could be the ACC’s big dog.

Think again, Fridge. Here comes Miami, the most dominant program of this generation, and Virginia Tech, a top-10 fixture under coach Frank Beamer during the past decade, to turn his dreams into a nightmare.

With N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Virginia and Clemson also bowl regulars, the ACC is now an elite football conference. That’s fine, but Maryland will drop from being the ACC’s No.2 program to its fourth-best when Miami and Virginia Tech join the party. And the Terps’ future schedules certainly will be much tougher than the 2002 slate, which included Wofford, Akron and Eastern Michigan.

Financially, all the ACC schools will benefit from the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech, especially if they can convince the NCAA to allow them to play a conference championship game despite having only 11 members, one shy of the minimum to do so. Such a showdown would earn each school about $1million a year.

If having the powerful Hurricanes and Hokies on board means the ACC usually would receive a second Bowl Championship Series bid, that’s roughly another $1million a school beyond the additional revenue from whatever non-BCS bowl that invites Miami, Virginia Tech or Florida State. And the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported that the expanded ACC could expect its football television contract to soar from $25million to $40million annually.

The new members also are bad news for Virginia, which is experiencing a football renaissance under coach Al Groh. However, Virginia president John Casteen — under pressure from Gov. Mark Warner — suddenly has elevated the Cavaliers’ most bitter rival to equal status with “The University.”

No longer are the Hokies the country bumpkins from Blacksburg who switch lesser leagues on a regular basis. Groh won’t be able to tell potential recruits that if they come to UVa and not Tech their games will be seen all over the Mid-Atlantic and South. The annual Tech-UVa battle also will be for more than bragging rights now. It could help determine the ACC champion and a BCS bowl berth.

The expansion shouldn’t have nearly as much effect on the basketball programs in College Park or Charlottesville, largely because Miami has an on the bubble-type program and Virginia Tech has made only two of the last 17 NCAA tournaments.

Gary Williams has not only resurrected Maryland’s basketball program, he delivered the Terps’ first Final Four in 2001 and their first national title in 2002. Pete Gillen hasn’t been as successful at Virginia. The Cavaliers have been at Miami’s level of late, good enough to pull off a shocker or two but not consistent enough to be much of a factor come tournament time. And now Tech can push UVa harder for all the top in-state high school talent looking to stay home.

However, the best basketball news for all of the ACC basketball holdovers is that defending national champion Syracuse and always tough Boston College ultimately weren’t invited to join the conference. The only real downside comes with dividing up the revenues — and the precious ACC tournament tickets — 11 ways, instead of nine.

As for men’s lacrosse, the top spring sport for 2003 Final Four participants Maryland and Virginia, there won’t be any change. Neither Virginia Tech nor Miami has a program.

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