News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Sunday, May 18, 2003
by Will Stewart,

ACC Settles on Miami, BC, and SU; VT Fans Wait and Hope

Late Friday, three days after approving expansion to 12 teams, the ACC settled on which three teams from the Big East they wish to start expansion discussions with: Miami, Syracuse and Boston College. To no one's surprise, Virginia Tech was shut out of ACC expansion.

North Carolina and Duke, who had previously voted no to expansion, switched their votes to yes Friday on expansion with Miami-BC-Syracuse, allowing Virginia to formally remain a "no" vote because of Virginia Tech's exclusion. This is not unexpected and allows UVa to take the proper political stance while not truly blocking expansion, since only 7 of 9 votes are needed to approve teams for the conference.

(Sources differ as to UVa's sincerity on the VT issue -- some sources have told that Virginia president John Casteen's insistence on VT's inclusion in expansion was truly sincere, while many pooh-pooh the entire event as orchestrated, pre-planned, pointless, and insincere.)

Many media outlets proclaimed the vote on the three teams as invitations to the league, but that's not exactly correct. None of the three teams have been formally invited yet. According to ACC bylaws, an ACC representative must visit each prospective members' campus and make a formal presentation to the president of the institution.

Still, if they're not invitations, they're the closest thing to an invitation you can get.

The Big East will, of course, have its chance to respond at its annual meetings, which are in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Most Big East athletic directors were already present at Ponte Vedra Beach early Saturday, with the exception of Miami's Paul Dee and Boston College's Gene DeFilippo, who arrived later in the day. Syracuse's Jake Crouthamel was due to arrive Saturday night.

Opinion differs on whether or not much will happen on Sunday, which is planned as a brief morning meeting followed by golf. The schools may embark on serious discussions Sunday, canceling the golf and meeting through the afternoon, or they may wait until Monday for the heavy stuff.

Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver has been at the forefront of the Big East's reaction to the ACC's latest action. On Friday, Weaver made the following statements to the Associated Press:

"My resolve is to work as hard as we can to keep the Big East Conference intact," Weaver said. "But obviously we don't want to spend four or five days doing that and then have people say they're gone. I'd rather if they've made up their minds, tell us up front so we can get on with life."

This statement reflects a growing opinion among many in the Virginia Tech -- and perhaps Big East -- camp that Miami, BC, and Syracuse have not been up front in their dealings with the league, and in fact, may have been working with the ACC on expansion for months and months.

"We might have had money to help Miami stay, but I don't think we have extra money to make Syracuse and BC stay," Weaver said of any possible incentives the Big East could offer schools. "And to be honest with you, if Syracuse and BC don't want this to happen, they can say no because I know the ACC doesn't want to go to 10."

This statement is an obvious challenge to BC and Syracuse to halt the Big East raid by simply saying no, leaving Miami as the only expansion candidate for the ACC, and a lone candidate at that.

"Those people are going to have travel budgets like they've never encountered before for their Olympic sports," Weaver added. "They'll understand what we have been doing at Virginia Tech because we've got to get on airplanes for everybody."

This appears to be a little more than an emotional rant by Weaver, a rarity for a man who usually measures each word carefully and painfully. He's telling the truth, but it sounds like he's miffed.

On Saturday, Weaver sounded a little bit more optimistic, telling a huge media gathering that "the odds are about 50-50" that the league can hang onto Miami, BC, and Syracuse.

Weaver did not expand upon his statements or offer details on what the Big East's offer to Miami will be. Weaver stated his preference for a 9-team league instead of the type of 12-team league that the ACC wants to fashion, saying, "I respectfully disagree with my counterparts in the ACC who think a 12-team conference is the best route in terms of running a conference. In a nine team conference, you have full round-robin play in football with four home and four road games every year. You have full round-robin play in men's basketball every year."

Miami AD Paul Dee spoke with the media late Friday and expressed his belief that a 12-team league is the future of college football. Along those lines, Dee said, "The question is, 'What can we [the Big East] do as a league to create a future that has stability for everyone?' If there is an opportunity, we will give it full and fair consideration."

Dee also spent some time explaining a quote attributed to him. The Miami Herald reported Friday that Dee, referring to the subject of ACC expansion, said it "is like a marriage proposal. You don't ask unless you know the answer," hinting that the ACC would only offer if it knew Miami was going to say yes.

Dee addressed that quote, saying, "First of all, I said the quote some time ago. I did not say it yesterday [Friday]. It was made some time ago under very different circumstances."

BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo also addressed the press, saying, "I've spent 10 years of my life in this conference and I truly respect the athletics directors with whom I have worked so closely. I will leave on Wednesday and then update [the Boston College president] on all the discussions we have had"

The Big East football teams may break away from the basketball teams to make the league more nimble and able to expand, but Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese won't direct that process, which would tear apart the conference he heads. That effort, which appears to be wanted by both the football schools and the basketball schools, would be spearheaded by the athletic directors.

Speculation about the Big East's response to the ACC's courtship of the three Big East team centers around three items: (1) A breakaway by the football schools; (2) Louisville's possible involvement in an expanded Big East; and (3) Notre Dame's involvement in some way in helping the league survive.

One countermove that does not appear likely is for the Big East to raid the ACC in response. The New York Post reported Saturday that the Big East was planning to poach Florida State, Maryland, and a third school to be determined, but that wacky report doesn't appear to have any legs, as no further reports along those lines have arisen.


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