News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Wednesday, July 2, 2003
by Will Stewart,

ACC Welcomes Virginia Tech and Miami

It was a night for smiles, relief, and looking forward. In a lengthy press conference Tuesday night from the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, North Carolina, the ACC welcomed new members Virginia Tech and Miami.

The often-contentious ACC expansion process came to a close with a gathering of a who's-who of the ACC, including commissioner John Swofford, most or all of the league presidents and athletic directors, and representatives from the two new members. Oddly enough, neither VT president Charles Steger nor Miami president Donna Shalala were able to make the press conference, due to bad weather. Steger, en route from Switzerland via Atlanta, was unable to get out of Georgia, and the weather stopped Shalala from attending, as well.

The Hokies were represented by athletic director Jim Weaver and John Rocovich, the rector of Virginia Tech's board of visitors.

The festivities started with Georgia Tech president G. Wayne Clough, a former VT professor and dean, welcoming both VT and Miami to the conference. Clough, a member of the ACC Council of Presidents, was speaking for Clemson president James Barker, the chairman of the Council, who was attending ceremonies honoring the late Strom Thurmond.

"Expansion is a topic we don't take lightly," Clough said, "because of the many ramifications it has Over time, our conference has expanded as opportunities have presented themselves. Our process in deciding issues of expansion is deliberate and is conducted according to our by-laws.

"In regards to this particular stage of ACC expansion, we developed a set of guiding principles that we called upon to help us make our decision. We considered matters such as student welfare, financial stability, similarity of institutional cultures, academic compatibility, and future opportunities. In the end, our process produced what is a logical and positive result.

"We're here today to formally welcome two new members to the Atlantic Coast Conference. They've indicated their willingness to join with us and make a great conference an even better one. They bring very considerable strengths in all aspects of intercollegiate athletics. We're also satisfied that they have nationally recognized university profiles and institutional cultures that fit with the existing membership of the ACC."

Clough then addressed Rocovich, saying:

"To Virginia Tech and all our colleagues here at this fine institution, we are pleased to welcome you to the ACC. It's been a long time coming, and we look forward to the strengths that Virginia Tech will afford us by a strong national and international reputation. Maybe we'll get to finish that game one of these days, John, that was stopped because of a little lightning storm," a reference to the 2000 VT/GT game that was canceled when a lightning storm broke out right before game time.

"To the university of Miami and our colleagues there," Clough continued, "President Shalala, we're pleased to welcome you to the ACC. Extending the geographic footprint of the ACC to south Florida and using your distinguished institutional reputation will greatly enhance our impact as a conference nationally as well as globally.

"Working with these outstanding new members, both who share academic and athletic agendas, we believe the best days of the ACC lie ahead."

ACC commissioner John Swofford then spoke, saying, "The ACC is stronger today than yesterday, and may well be at its strongest point in history Both Miami and VT are institutionally, academically, athletically, and geographically compatible with our nine current members. In short, they fit."

Swofford presented both Jim Weaver and Miami AD Paul Dee with golf shirts in their school colors, with the ACC logo embroidered on the left crest.

Weaver hailed Tech's entry into the ACC as a great day for Virginia Tech fans, alumni, and sports programs.

It has been a rocky road for Virginia Tech, but Rocovich told Roanoke's Channel 7, "I get to hear from many fans and students and friends and alums and the like, and I would say certainly that this opportunity is enormously popular with our alumni, fan base and student base. I might have had a handful of negative comments, but I've probably had hundreds of extraordinarily positive comments."

Virginia Tech and Miami will officially enter the conference on July 1st, 2004.

Some other notes from the press conference (all unconfirmed at this point):

  • Weaver expressed Virginia Tech's willingness to continue playing West Virginia, with the Mountaineers replacing Virginia as Tech's premier out of conference game.
  • Miami and VT will pay $2 million to enter the ACC, $1 million less than previously reported. The entry fee will be payable over five years.
  • The conference will most likely not break up into divisions, but will instead play as one 11-team division, modeling itself on the Big Ten. In football, each Big Ten team plays eight conference games per year, consisting of two rival games every year and rotating through the other eight teams on a six-per-year basis.
  • The league has no plans to expand to 12 teams within the next couple of years. The ACC is expected to request that the NCAA lower the minimum number of teams for a football championship game from 12 to 11 or 10. That request is expected to be received favorably by the NCAA.

Related article: Hell Freezes Over


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