News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Thursday, June 19, 2003
by Will Stewart,

Reports: ACC Again Considering VT

Wednesday night, both the Washington Post and CBS SportsLine reported that the ACC is prepared to offer Virginia Tech an invitation to the league, to join BC, Miami, and Syracuse in jumping from the Big East and forming a 13-team ACC:

ACC Will Invite VT to Join Other Big East Defectors,, 6/18/03
ACC May Consider Adding Virginia Tech, Washington Post, 6/18/03

Both articles express these common facts:

  • The ACC could not get seven votes to invite Syracuse, BC, and Miami, because UNC and Duke are against expansion, and UVa can't vote yes due to political pressure.
  • The decision to include VT in expansion was made during a three-hour conference call of the ACC presidents Wednesday morning.
  • Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough, a former VT professor and former dean of the College of Engineering at VT, flew to Blacksburg to inform VT president Charles Steger.
  • Steger will speak with VT's Board of Visitors Thursday about the ACC's interest -- and what to do about it -- on Thursday.

The ACC invitation, if it happens, puts VT in a difficult position. If the invitation is sincere, and Virginia Tech accepts, they become hypocrites and party to an act for which they were criticizing the other three Big East schools and the ACC: destroying the Big East.

The answer to that problem: bad press and criticism eventually go away, but wrecking your athletic future with a poor decision never goes away. VT won't likely turn an ACC invitation down due to fear of criticism.

On the other hand, the invitation may not be sincere and may just be a tactic by the ACC. If UNC and Duke are presented with the possibility of VT joining the conference as well, knowing that this will cause UVa to cast the 7th "yes" vote, then either Duke or UNC may cast the 7th vote for expansion with just UM, BC, and SU, leaving the Hokies out.

There isn't much VT can do about that, and it's not out of the realm of possibility that UNC and Duke might suggest dropping BC or SU and keeping VT, instead.

In addition, in the article linked above, The Washington Post reported an important caveat to a possible ACC invitation for VT:

Virginia Tech would have to drop out of a lawsuit against the ACC, Boston College and Miami in order to proceed with exploratory discussions with the ACC, a source said.

If VT drops from the suit in order to start discussions with the ACC, the suit can be moved from the Connecticut court system to the federal court system, where it becomes more likely it will be dismissed, instead of receiving the friendly reception it would get in Connecticut. The ACC could then drop VT from consideration, which would accomplish dismissal of the lawsuit.

That's probably not a major consideration, though, because removal of the lawsuit alone, without VT's inclusion, probably won't cause UNC or Duke to vote yes, and it certainly wouldn't lead to Virginia voting yes.

Lastly, if VT doesn't trust the ACC and wants to turn it down, that's not an option. Mark Warner and the Virginia legislature have directed Virginia Tech to accept the invitation if it's offered, so it's really out of Virginia Tech's hands. It would be political suicide for VT to reject the ACC's offer, thus angering Warner and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, and whoever else has gone to bat for VT.

That last point is the big one: If the ACC sincerely makes an offer, then VT has to accept it for political reasons, in the same way that Virginia can't approve a VT-less expansion for political reasons.

On his late-night broadcast, WSLS-10 (Roanoke, VA) sports director Justin Ditmore had an interesting comment. He suggested about the only thing VT can do to control this outcome is to tell the ACC, "If you mean it, then skip the dog-and-pony show, the site visit and all that. Send the invitation ready for us to sign."

VT might not even have to do that. It's possible that Wayne Clough's visit to VT on Wednesday might serve as the site visit that is required by ACC bylaws. It depends upon the specifics of the bylaws. If more than one person was required to visit VT, if Clough brought anyone with him, then his visit to Steger might qualify as a site visit, and that part of the procedure might already be taken care of. In that case, the invitation could be forthcoming, and soon.

But this angle isn't supported by a follow-up Thursday, June 19th Washington Post article, which bluntly stated:

Virginia Tech would have to drop out of a lawsuit against the ACC, Boston College and Miami in order to proceed with exploratory discussions with the ACC, a source said.

The use of the term "exploratory discussions" indicates that the ACC is not prepared to offer an invitation right away.

The intrigue doesn't end there: Ditmore also said he "had been told" something that sources have also told TSL: the ACC is talking with Notre Dame, in an attempt to get them on board as the 14th team.

There's one last twist the drama could take: If Notre Dame is interested and would say yes to the ACC, then BC and Syracuse might be dropped -- BC can't get the votes, and Syracuse is reluctant to leave the Big East -- and the ACC might vote to add just Miami, VT, and Notre Dame. Sources have told TSL this is a possibility.


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