- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

The NCAA will deny the Atlantic Coast Conference’s request for a waiver that would allow it to stage a conference championship game in football next season, league sources confirmed yesterday.

The ACC now plans to resume its pursuit of Notre Dame and Boston College. The addition of one of those schools would bring its membership to 12, the minimum required by the NCAA for a league to stage a championship game.

The ACC in July applied to the NCAA for a waiver to that rule, hoping to stage a title game that could earn the conference as much as $9million. The request never made it out of committee.

“We got back word that the championship committee was overwhelmingly against waiving the current rule,” Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips told the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail. “It’s disappointing. I’d like to have it. I think the divisional play enhances the league.”

The ACC, which added Virginia Tech and Miami in June, clearly aims to expand again in order to stage a championship game — a game that largely would pay for the larger conference. Merely adding Virginia Tech and Miami to the existing television deals would be a fiscal loser for each school, which would get a smaller cut of the revenue.

ACC athletic directors meet Tuesday.

“The need for the 12th team becomes critically important at this juncture,” Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said. “My hope is the ACC [overall] will feel the same way.”

Said Florida State athletic director Dave Hart: “I don’t think it’s in our best interest to cause delay, banking on the reasonable chance that the waiver would be granted. If a championship game is important to us — which it is — we’re going to ultimately and collectively pursue, with our presidents, a 12th team.”

ACC officials have talked with Notre Dame in recent weeks, league sources said. The biggest roadblock to the Fighting Irish joining the ACC is the school’s insistence on playing only a partial conference schedule in football — a requirement that makes its addition a long shot.

However, conference officials seem willing to forego a quick deal with Boston College or, less likely, Pittsburgh that would allow them to stage a title game in 2004.

The ACC instead may wait a year to expand further rather than risk a repeat of June’s embarrassing reshuffling of the membership. Conference presidents at that time vetoed the plan of their athletic directors to add Syracuse, Boston College and Miami, opting instead for Miami and Virginia Tech for 2004.

“Everybody would want Notre Dame,” Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden said. “Even if you had one year left on your contract and had to win 10 games, you’d want Notre Dame.”

Boston College officials have said they harbored no hard feelings about their unexpected, late rejection in what once was considered a done deal. However, Syracuse officials were openly angry.

The ACC wants to expand to another major media market, leading it to pursue Boston College instead of several smaller Southern schools. The conference believes it can in this way increase television revenues after its current contracts expire in 2005 and also gain exposure in the Northeast for recruiting.

“I think people continue to have affinity [for Boston College],” Phillips said. “I don’t know how they feel about us after what’s happened. To me, that would be the larger question. If I’m Boston College, I’m not sure how warm and fuzzy I’d feel about things.”

The ACC also is continuing talks with officials in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Jacksonville, Fla., and Tampa, Fla., cities interested in playing host to the championship game. The league would prefer a permanent home but would consider rotating it among cities the first few years.

Meanwhile, the ACC is preparing for at least one season using Big Ten model schedules, which means that each team would not play each member in football and would play some basketball rivals only once. When the 12th team is added, the conference will create two divisions.

Men’s basketball is considering a 20-game conference schedule instead of the current 16. However, some coaches don’t want to give up four non-conference games that often are used for easy early victories and feel 20 ACC games might wear down teams before the NCAA tournament.

“The 16-game schedule for schools that are working to build their program would be more preferable because you don’t have to play everybody in the double round robin each year,” Phillips said. “But from a television perspective, certainly the 20-game schedule is a tremendous inventory for the networks. There’s a whole lot of discussion that has to go on with that issue.”

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