Thursday, June 26, 2003

ACC limits invitations to Miami, Va. Tech

Syracuse, Boston College left out of raid on Big East

The Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. - When the Atlantic Coast Conference's invitations went out, one guest was expected, another was a surprise - and two were snubbed.

The ACC ended its six-week expansion saga Wednesday by inviting only Miami and Virginia Tech to leave the Big East and join its league. The Hurricanes and Hokies have two of the Big East's dominant football programs.

Boston College and Syracuse, which also were candidates for expansion, were left behind.

Clemson's James F. Barker, head of the ACC's Council of Presidents, said the invitation to Virginia Tech, a dark-horse candidate that was added last week at the insistence of Virginia - which otherwise might have voted to block expansion - was "subject to final completion of the conference bylaw requirements" - a site visit that was under way Wednesday in Blacksburg, Va.

Virginia Tech's governing board, meeting earlier Wednesday, unanimously authorized president Charles Steger to negotiate a deal with the ACC. The school's Board of Visitors gave Steger the authority to make the decision himself, and he said he was "inclined to accept" the offer.

Miami president Donna Shalala said school officials were disappointed that Boston College and Syracuse weren't included.

"Since this is a new proposal, we will evaluate it before making a decision," she said.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said he didn't expect any problems with the invitation to either school, "but that's in their hands."

Boston College said the Big East was discussing future conference configurations among its members, with Miami and Virginia Tech included. That's likely to mean that the Big East is making the would-be defectors a counterproposal to keep them from bolting.

The league's statement said the schools will address "those issues that have caused several Big East institutions to consider conference withdrawal."

The ACC presidents voted on May 13 to expand its membership, and conference officials visited Miami, Boston College and Syracuse to assess their facilities. Virginia Tech came into the picture last week, as part of a compromise suggested by Virginia president John T. Casteen III.

Virginia Tech was one of five Big East football schools that filed a lawsuit June 6 to try to stop BC, Miami and Syracuse from leaving the conference. Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West Virginia were the other parties to the suit.

Connecticut president Philip Austin said Virginia Tech did not participate Wednesday in a conference call among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Austin would not say what was discussed on the call.

A Connecticut judge is scheduled to hear preliminary arguments today in the suit.

The expansion would give the ACC 11 members, one short of the number necessary to hold a football conference championship game. A football title game was a driving force behind the move.

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