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Tranghese Accuses ACC Of 'Blindsiding' Big East By Stealing 2 Football Powers

Posted July 1, 2003

— Big East Conference Commissioner Mike Tranghese said Monday that he he didn't fault Miami and Virginia Tech for defecting to the Atlantic Coast Conference. He instead directed his scorn at the ACC for "blindsiding" his league by grabbing its top two football schools.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford, meanwhile, said the addition of the Hurricanes and Hokies will make his league "as tough a football league as we've ever had.

"We've added strength to our football schedule," Swofford told WRAL, "at a tiime when the existing programs are getting better and better."

After Miami announced Monday that it would join the ACC in 2004, Tranghese said it was time to move on.

"We've been through this for two months, and I think those of us that are involved have had enough of it," Tranghese said.

"I think the public is disgusted with us all, to be honest with you. We're educational groups, and we're held to a higher standard than most people, and I think people have looked at us not in a very good way. . . . And that incudes me."

After courting Miami, Syracuse and Boston College for the better part of two months, the ACC voted last week to instead invite Miami and Virginia Tech -- Nos. 2 and 18 in the final AP football poll last season.

Virginia Tech accepted immediately. Miami waited to mull counter offers from the Big East before president Donna Shalala accepted the ACC deal on Monday.

The schools will be in the ACC beginning with the 2004 football season.

Syracuse chancellor Kenneth Shaw said the Big East made a "strong, competitive offer" to keep Miami in the conference.

Although he wouldn't elaborate, the schools had guaranteed Miami $9 million a year for five years even before a series of last-minute proposals.

"We put on the table issues and suggestions that acknowledged the fact that Miami was a very important part of the Big East and the marquee football school," Shaw said. "We knew from the get-go, it was Miami that they wanted. ... It also was clear to us that we were expendable, as was Boston College, and, I would submit, as was Virginia Tech."

North Carolina State University Chancellor Marye Ann Fox said she likes what Miami and Virginia Tech add to the ACC not only athletically, but also in "fostering continued academic partnerships that will improve the lives of all our students, especially our student athletes."

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser said that "despite the concerns I have expressed about expansion, we at Carolina are committed to making it work."

The defections will leave the Big East with six football-playing schools. Two of them, BC and Syracuse, had considered leaving before changing course and trying to talk Miami into staying.

Boston College portrayed its interest as a "pursuit of excellence" that comes naturally to an educational institution.

The Rev. William Leahy, the president of Boston College, said the school had nothing to be ashamed of and that he would do it again if he had the opportunity.

"I'm very comfortable with the way we conducted ourselves," he said.

The Big East is coming off one of the best years in its history. Miami came within one play of winning the NCAA's football championship. Syracuse won in men's basketball, and UConn gave the Big East its fourth straight women's basketball title.

"Eight days later, we get hit with this," Tranghese said. "I've gone from total euphoria to probably the deepest, darkest period in the history of our league. ... It hasn't been fun."

Others were less glum.

"This is not doom and gloom," BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said. "This is a bump in the road."

Said Shaw: "The Big East is alive and well."

Tranghese said he had no animosity toward the departing schools, noting that Virginia Tech was drawn into the matter through state politics. He said the Big East will debate raising the exit fee from the $1 million Miami and Virginia Tech will pay.

"But I think, at the end of the day, if somebody doesn't want to be with you, they're not going to be with you," he said.

The affair could also lead to changes at the NCAA level. Among the reforms already being discussed are altering the rule that requires a conference to have 12 teams to play a postseason championship, a looming catalyst for expansion.

A long-discussed national playoff could also gain momentum.

"I am disappointed the issue has been as disagreeable as it has been," NCAA president Myles Brand said in a statement. "The integrity of intercollegiate athletics demands that we handle conference alignments and related matters in the future in a better way."

The Big East expects to maintain its Bowl Championship Series bid until the end of that agreement three years from now. But the league would need to expand to eight teams to meet NCAA requirements.

Another possibility is for the conference's basketball- and football-playing schools to go their separate ways.

Conference leaders said they had been concentrating on persuading Miami to stay, so they haven't discussed the league's future. Other schools that have approached Tranghese about joining "have been shut down," he said.

"I have told them I don't want to be bothered with it," said Tranghese, who promised the commissioners of Conference USA and the Atlantic 10, two potential expansion pools, that they won't be "blind-sided."

"I can guarantee you we won't do it the way the ACC did," he said.


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