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ACC Sends Out Two Invitations

After formal offers extended, Virginia Tech says it will accept, but Miami wants more time to make a decision about leaving the Big East.

June 26, 2003|Chris Snow | Times Staff Writer

Miami and Virginia Tech received formal invitations Wednesday to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, concluding six weeks of conjecture about which schools the ACC would officially solicit in its quest to expand.

"These two institutions represent and share the values for which the ACC has long been known," James Barker, Clemson president and the ACC's Council of Presidents chair, said through a release. "We feel they will be a great addition to our family."

Virginia Tech indicated that it intends to say yes.

"Should we be offered membership, the university is prepared to accept.... We look forward to this very special opportunity," President Charles Steger said in a statement.

In a release, Miami President Donna Shalala thanked the ACC but asked for more time.

"We are disappointed that they have decided not to extend invitations to Boston College and Syracuse," Shalala said. "Since this is a new proposal, we will evaluate it before making a decision."

Until June 18, when the nine ACC presidents conducted a third conference call without voting, Boston College and Syracuse were expected to join Miami if expansion passed. But Virginia, Duke and North Carolina remained opposed, leaving the proposal a vote shy of approval. During that call, however, Virginia President John Casteen pined for Virginia Tech to be reconsidered.

Now, Boston College and Syracuse find themselves in what would be a depleted football conference in the Big East.

"You're taking the two best football teams out of that league," said Jerry Palm, operator of collegebcs.com. "It remains to be seen if the Big East will even keep its spot in the BCS. They go from being a major player to being Conference USA.

"The only way the Big East can save itself is by including Notre Dame."

In a release, Syracuse spokesman Kevin Morrow voiced disappointment but pledged allegiance to the Big East.

"We will work with our colleagues to help [the Big East] become an even stronger conference," Morrow said.

In its release, Boston College officials stated: "The Big East institutions are engaged in discussions with all conference members, including Miami and Virginia Tech, regarding future conference configuration. Boston College is now focused on these discussions, including addressing those issues that have caused several Big East institutions to consider conference withdrawal."

Virginia Tech and Miami must pay a $1-million exit fee to the Big East by Monday if they wish to begin ACC play in 2004-05. After that, the fee doubles.

Miami and the ACC remain targets of a lawsuit filed June 6 by five Big East schools, including Virginia Tech, but presidents of the plaintiff schools announced Wednesday that Virginia Tech has withdrawn from the suit and that they are prepared to excuse Boston College as a defendant.

"We do not know what decisions Miami and Virginia Tech will ultimately make," the presidents said. "We are encouraged that Miami has said today that it needs to reflect fully on the offer before it makes a final decision."

A preliminary hearing to determine the location of a trial was scheduled for this morning.

Miami and Virginia Tech's addition to the ACC would mark the conference's third expansion. Georgia Tech joined in 1978 and Florida State in 1991.

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