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Hurricanes call timeout to study
new Big East playbook

[ Originally posted 06.27.03 ]

By The Associated Press

CORAL GABLES, FL — The University of Miami said Thursday it had received counterproposals from the Big East and would carefully consider them before deciding whether to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Miami's 19-member executive committee of its board of trustees met with Miami President Donna Shalala and athletic director Paul Dee for more than an hour Thursday to discuss the ACC invitation. No vote was held during that meeting.

"The Big East has informally sent a proposal, or at least a list of proposals, to us and we feel a responsibility to review them," said Shalala, who said she was not ruling out any possibility -- including remaining in the Big East.

Shalala said a final decision will be announced Monday. The University needs to inform Big East officials before Monday of any decision to jump to the ACC or have its penalty fee for leaving double to $2 million.

Shalala would not discuss specifics of any of the Big East proposals. Earlier in the expansion process, the Big East had guaranteed Miami $45 million over five years to remain in their conference.

Big East spokesman John Paquette said he had no comment about Shalala's claim of counterproposals.

Shalala and Dee were also asked by trustees to continue examining the economic impact the move to an 11-team ACC would have on the university.

The ACC was seeking to expand to 12 teams, so it could add a conference football championship game, one that would infuse at least $12 million annually into the league's coffers. Without 12 teams -- the current minimum for a championship game -- the financial projections could be changed considerably.

Miami and Virginia Tech received formal invitations Wednesday to join the ACC. The Virginia Tech invite was a surprising twist because Miami, Boston College and Syracuse were the schools the ACC had originally targeted for expansion.

"We had done numbers on Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami, we had done numbers on Miami alone, but we had not anticipated that Virginia Tech and Miami would be the only two invitees," Shalala said.

Boston College and Syracuse both went through required parts of the ACC expansion process, including site visits, but were not extended invitations.

"I am deeply disappointed that Boston College and Syracuse were not invited by the ACC," said Shalala, who said she would not ask the ACC to reconsider inviting those two schools.

Rev. William Leahy, Boston College's president, spoke with Shalala on Wednesday night.

"I think she is generally torn about what to do," he said.

Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo said he hopes his school remains aligned with Miami.

"That's exciting that they have not decided anything yet," DeFilippo said. "I hope they will feel that remaining in the Big East Conference is in their best interest."

Shalala also said the school still has to complete a study on how an 11-team league would work schedule-wise. She said Miami has been told the majority of ACC members prefer expanding to 12 teams but said she had not been assured that such expansion would take place.

"There's a lot of aspects we have to look at in terms of how the schedules would run in the conference, what it would mean for outside competition, what it would mean in other ways," Dee said. "With 11, scheduling, at least in the short term, would be fairly difficult."

Miami has been at the center of a six-week saga that has had ACC presidents wrangling over a number of different scenarios to get enough votes for an expansion that would add Miami and its powerhouse football program to the conference.

Miami could join the ACC as early as the 2004-05 academic year if it accepts.

Virginia Tech officials have indicated they will accept the ACC's invitation, meaning the Big East may have just one more season with both of its top football draws as members. Miami won the 2001 national title and played in the championship game again last season. Virginia Tech is a perennial national championship contender.

The trustees' meeting came on the same day that a Connecticut judge heard arguments about speeding up a lawsuit that four current Big East schools have filed against Miami. Those schools — Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia and Pittsburgh -- contend they have spent millions of dollars on their football programs based on presumed loyalty from the conference's other members, including Miami.

"I'm not surprised we were sued," Shalala said. "Who sued us surprised me."

Originally, Miami and Boston College were the defendants in the case, and Virginia Tech was among the plaintiffs.

But that changed this week when the ACC did not invite Boston College, which was dropped as a defendant. Virginia Tech has excused itself as a plaintiff.

Syracuse never was a defendant because Big East attorneys contended that only Boston College and Miami were engaged in secret discussions to ruin their conference.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Boston College may provide evidence critical to the case, now that the school is no longer a candidate for ACC expansion.

"We're hoping their cooperation will shed light on some of the secret, back-room discussions in this continuing conspiracy," he said.

Superior Court Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza said he would rule before Friday on the request to expedite the trial.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

02/23/2007 10:36:45 AM

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