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Expansion Process, Final Outcome Could Affect ACC's Credibility

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A lot of scenarios for Atlantic Coast Conference expansion have been kicked around for the past few weeks. But the one that became reality Wednesday --

with the league issuing formal invitations to Miami and Virginia Tech

-- wasn't one of them.

Many of the expansion critics are also upset with the way the ACC handled the expansion process. That, combined with how the final outcome went down, could affect the credibility of the conference.

The expansion talks played out in a public and sometimes painful way for the ACC.

Even Miami President Donna Shalala was disappointed with the final outcome, saying she would reserve judgement after re-evaluating the offer to join the ACC.

Shalala issued a statement Wednesday saying her school isappreciative of the invitation but is disappointed that invitations were not extended to Boston College and Syracuse.

Shalala added that, because a new proposal has been issued, the schoolwill evaluate it before making a decision on whether or not to accept.

Local sports radio host Adam Gold compared the ACC expansion saga to a three-ring circus, with league Comissioner John Swofford in the role of ringleader.

"The circus is in town," Gold said Wednesday. "It is in Greensboro, N.C., and it will be there until further notice."

"Around the country," Gold said, "it looks like he (Swofford) is leading the league like a chicken without a head. It's awful."

Observers said the ACC's credibility took a beating when its first game plan fell apart.

The conference hoped to bring Miami, Syracuse and Boston College into the fold. But ACC leaders couldn't get enough votes to close the deal.

"You had seven schools that wanted it to happen, and you needed seven votes," said sports writer and publisher David Glenn of the

ACC Area Sports Journal

. "But one of those votes was Virginia, and Virginia -- for political reasons -- could not vote for those three schools because it would leave out Virginia Tech."

Glenn said the ACC would have preferred to cut a deal behind closed doors.

Faced with losing teams, the Big East blew the lid off the story. Glenn said that probably influenced the outcome.

"The fact that it wasn't secret derailed what could have been a 12-team conference," Glenn said, "and compromised the process over the last few months."

The fallout is so serious that the ACC hired a public relations firm to help get out its side of the story. Conference officials maintain expansion is the right thing to do, and they want the public to agree.

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