News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
by Will Stewart,

BC To Wait Until 2005 to Join ACC

The issues of when Boston College is going to join the ACC and whether or not the ACC is going to have a football title game in 2004 were settled Monday, and the answers are "2005" and "no."

The Big East, the ACC, and Conference USA have been negotiating in an attempt to smoothly manage the move of BC to the ACC and five C-USA schools to the Big East: Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, South Florida and Marquette. The conferences were all trying to get the moves accomplished for next year, the 2004-2005 academic year.

At issue was how C-USA was going to be compensated for the loss of its five schools. C-USA wanted not just exit fees from those schools, but money from the Big East to compensate for the $10 million it will reportedly lose in NCAA Tournament and television revenues. The Big East refused to compensate C-USA beyond the standard exit fees paid by the teams, and talks broke down for good over the weekend.

This means that Boston College will not be leaving the Big East until the following year (2005-2006) and will spend one more year in the league before departing for the ACC.

Why doesn't BC just leave? Why do the negotiations between C-USA and the Big East matter to them? The answer is two-fold. Number one, BC is arguing over whether its exit fee is $5 million, or just the $1 million that Miami and Virginia Tech paid to exit. Had BC been voted in at the same time as Miami and VT, back in late June of 2003, their fee would have been $1 million. But after NC State chancellor Marye Anne Fox inexplicably voted no to BC last June, the Big East met and voted to raise its exit fees substantially. Then, a couple months later, the ACC voted BC in anyway, putting the Eagles in a bind.

Number two, reducing the Big East from six teams (with BC) to five (without BC) for next year would create big scheduling problems for the BE.  It's hard to figure out why BC would care about that, since it's leaving the league, but BC Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo was quoted by last week as saying, "The Big East would drop to six teams without us, and that wouldn't be enough for scheduling. We're not going to do that. We can't leave unless those teams [from C-USA] come. That's the right thing to do."

Funny that BC should now be concerned about "the right thing to do," but that's another article for another time.

In any event, BC won't enter the ACC until the 2005-2006 academic year.

From a football scheduling standpoint, the ACC will be divided into two divisions, and each team will play the five teams in their division every year, plus three teams from the other division. One team in the other division is assigned as a "permanent rival" and will be played every year (meaning that six out of eleven potential opponents will be played every season). The other five teams in the other division will be played on a "rotating basis," which is open to interpretation at this point.

Here's how that looks from a divisional standpoint. In the following table, each team is listed across from their "permanent rival" in the other division -- so VT's permanent rival, for example, will be BC.

ACC Divisional Setup
(2005 and Beyond)
Division 1 Division 2

Georgia Tech



Florida State


NC State



Virginia Tech

Boston College


Wake Forest

With the ACC only having eleven teams in 2004, the other issue on the table was whether the league could stage a championship game with less than 12 teams, the current NCAA-mandated minimum.

The answer is no. Also on Monday, the NCAA Division I Management Council voted against the ACC's proposal to lower the number of schools in a given conference required to stage a championship game, from twelve to ten. The council rejected the measure 17-7, and it's unlikely the group will pass it onto the NCAA's Board of Directors, which has final say.

The interesting point of all this is what a mess one person created: NC State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. Fox was in Switzerland during the ACC's final, fateful conference call last June, voting at 2 a.m. local time, when she said yes to Miami and Virginia Tech, but no to Boston College. While ACC expansion was messy enough at the time, Fox made it much, much worse with her vote, which she has never explained publicly.

The heavy rumor was that Fox was holding the twelfth spot for Notre Dame, her alma mater. According to the ACC Area Sports Journal, Fox privately told people that wasn't her reason for voting no to BC, but she refuses to publicly answer questions why she voted no to BC in June.

The issue of Notre Dame to the ACC flared up again in late summer/early fall of 2003, when it was reported by the Charlotte Observer and ACC Area Sports Journal that ACC commissioner John Swofford was hatching partial membership plans to try to land the Golden Domers for the conference. The ACC presidents quickly got together and issued a decree that it was full membership or nothing, stopping Swofford dead in his tracks and leading to a vote for BC as the twelfth ACC member.

Regardless of Fox's motives, she cost the ACC and potentially Boston College millions of dollars. Had BC been voted in last June, the Eagles could have paid the Big East $1 million, just like VT and Miami, and entered the ACC for 2004-2005, giving the league plenty of time to arrange a conference championship game for the 2004 football season.

Instead, BC might have to pay as much as $5 million to exit their current league, and the ACC missed out on a chance to stage a championship game that could have netted $5-$10 million for the league.

Ms. Fox's phone call was mighty expensive for the ACC.


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