- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The Atlantic Coast Conference voted yesterday to expand to 12 schools for the 2004-05 academic year, according to sources and several published reports. While no formal bids were extended, Miami officially will be invited to become the conference’s 10th member in the next several days.

The other two invitations are expected to go to fellow Big East programs Boston College and Syracuse, with Virginia Tech also a possibility. The league got the necessary seven votes from university presidents to expand, with only North Carolina and Duke voting against the proposal.

The move was driven by a desire to create a “mega-conference” for football. A conference championship game with some $10million in revenue will be added if three teams accept the invitation. A dozen teams — plus the addition of major media markets Miami, New York and Boston — would put the ACC in position for a more lucrative television contract when the current one expires after 2005 football season and could give the conference a chance at placing a second team in the BCS and earning the $13million payoff that goes with the bid. The ACC has never had two teams in the BCS.

The approval came as the ACC wrapped up its meetings in Amelia Island, Fla. The Big East will hold conference meetings this weekend in Florida.

ACC commissioner John Swofford would not confirm the expansion vote.

“The conference call among the league’s chancellors and presidents this morning was another step toward completion of an ongoing process that is not yet finalized,” Swofford said. “It is not appropriate at this time for me to share the particulars of this morning’s conference call out of respect to our own schools and to potential candidates. At this time, no final decisions have been reached.”

If the three Big East schools join the ACC, the 12-team league will begin with two divisions in 2004-05. The three newcomers would have until June30 to inform the Big East of their departure.

“There are still a couple of issues, but the ACC will be expanding,” John Thrasher, the chairman of the Florida State board of trustees, told the Charlotte Observer. “Miami really wants Syracuse as part of its package. We definitely want Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, but a couple of ACC schools have a different view of that.”

Miami has promised the Big East it will listen to a counter-proposal. The league is expected to pitch becoming a stronger football league in a fight to keep its prestige. Losing Miami means the Big East would lose considerable clout in football, likely along with its BCS bid. Hurricanes athletic director Paul Dee said his school was interested in the ACC, and it is unlikely the vote would have passed had Miami not essentially agreed to join.

“Even if they called us and said, ‘OK, you’re it,’ we still have all this discussion to do with them to assure ourselves,” Dee said. “All they can really do is say, ‘Let’s talk.’”

The additions would mean the end of the current round-robin schedule in basketball, in which each team plays a home-and-home series with the eight other conference opponents.

“I really enjoyed that,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who was not aware of the vote’s results until reached last night. “At the end of the regular season, you knew who the best team was. I will miss that. Hopefully, we can keep our rivals. We want to play Duke and [North] Carolina twice. There’s a lot of tradition there.

“But times change. You can’t get left behind. You can be a traditionalist like I think I am. But you want your conference to stay at the top. It keeps [the ACC] positioned to be the mega-conference it wants to be. It makes sense for the future of our league.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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