Local News

Lawsuit Claims Miami Made Promise To Remain In Big East

Posted June 6, 2003 7:51 a.m. EDT

— A courtroom battle was brewing Friday over the proposed Atlantic Coast Conference expansion.

The Big East filed a lawsuit to stop conference members Miami, Boston College and Syracuse from jumping ship and joining the ACC.

Five Big East schools are suing the ACC, Miami and Boston College.

Syracuse was not one of the defendants named in the suit because the Big East found no evidence that the Orangemen promised to remain in the league.

But the conference believes a promise by Miami should be enough to sack ACC expansion. So it has come up with a 35-page last-gasp effort to keep the Big East intact.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal summarized the lawsuit filed Friday in Connecticut Superior Connecticut.

"Fraud is not too strong a word to describe what has happened here," Blumenthal said.

The centerpiece of the lawsuit is a statement made in March 2002 by Miami president Donna Shalala.

"The University of Miami is in the Big East and has no interest in leaving it for any other conference," Shalala is quoted as saying.

The lawsuit indicates that Connecticut spent $90 million and Virginia Tech $36 million to continue upgrading their football facilities based on the belief that Miami had no interest in leaving the Big East.

"This lawsuit is about a backroom conspiracy, born in secrecy, founded in greed, carried out through calculated deceit," Blumenthal said. "It's a sad story in the history of college athletics."

In response to the lawsuit, the ACC released a statement Friday.

"We're disappointed that these schools have chosen to take this action," ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in the statement. "We will review it with our legal counsel before determining whether we will have any further comment."

Miami legal analyst Kendall Coffee offered his own theory Friday.

"In legal terms, that's the equivalent of a 'Hail Mary' desperation pass," Coffee said. "There is no support for this extraordinary thing that they are trying to do."

At least one local attorney contacted by WRAL said Shalala's statement constitutes a promise. But if the ACC can prove that the football renovations at UConn and Virginia Tech were underway prior to the March statement, the lawsuit may not hold up.