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Hokies ready; Miami unsure; Pirates politicking

[ Originally posted 06.28.03 ]

• Survival in question for hybrid conferences
• Miami Makes the Leap — Now What?
• Hurricanes rage over nervous landscape
ACC, Big East on edge about Miami
• Leagues caught in eye of the Hurricanes
• Media rises to task in ACC-Big East feud

• VPI in; Miami ponders; ECU sees opening
• ECU chancellor keen on developments
• Miami calls timeout to huddle with Big East
BE plans "up front" and "proper" expansion
• ACC door cracked open for ECU...?
• Mountain West preparing to pounce
Chalk one up for the non-BCS schools
• Big East-ACC peace plan in the works?
• ECU poised to ride out ACC-Big East storm
ACC deliberations at crossroads
Big Top needed for this circus
Where are you, Governor Easley..?

From staff and Associated Press reports

While Virginia Tech speeds along the bureaucratic highway toward formal membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference, fellow Big East school Miami has slowed down for a caution sign and East Carolina is trying to plow in through the back door.

The Hokies received a formal invitation to join the ACC on Friday and will accept, university president Charles M. Steger wrote in an open letter to alumni.

Calling the conference "an organization of some of the nation's most prestigious universities," Steger explained Tech's position throughout the ACC's six-week expansion process many have likened to a soap opera.

"We know that this affiliation will be good for our students, athletes, fans, and communities for many years to come," he concluded in the letter, which was made available to media covering the Hokies.

The letter detailed the school's actions throughout the process, with Steger telling alumni that he notified the Big East of the ACC's offer to begin discussions about joining last Tuesday night, the same night the offer was extended, and knows that Tech will be criticized for fighting both for the Big East and for inclusion in the ACC at the same time.

"At the end of the day, many will disagree with our decisions. They of course are free to do so," Steger wrote. "However, we have dealt as best we can with a very complex changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics to the best of our ability in difficult times."

Earlier Friday, athletic director Jim Weaver said he was unsure all the necessary paperwork has been completed to make the move official, but that any perceived delay does not mean the Hokies are unsure what to do.

The process of finalizing the Hokies' letter of agreement to join the ACC involves having it go through several administration offices, including Steger's, and the school's lawyers, he said.

When the letter completes its review and sign route through the offices, it will be signed, certainly by Monday morning, Weaver said.

"There's no issue of whether we will sign it," he said. "This isn't getting done by one person. ... A lot of people are involved."

Monday is the day Miami is expected to announce its decision on whether to accept its invitation from the ACC or remain in the Big East.

While the ACC waited for Tech and the Hurricanes to officially accept or decline the invitations, fans of East Carolina said the league should look a little closer to home.

ECU supporters mounted a campaign encouraging encouraging fans of the Pirates to write to lawmakers including Gov. Mike Easley to ask for their help in persuading the ACC to include the Greenville school in its plans.

"I haven't heard any negatives on this from colleagues I've talked to," said state Sen. Tony P. Moore, who wrote to Easley on Thursday, seeking his help.

"We'll see how the governor feels about this. We'd like to see the same support that the governor of Virginia provided for Virginia Tech. We're the third-largest university in the state, and we would like to be considered."

Easley spokesman Ernie Seneca said the governor received Moore's letter but is focused on the state budget right now.

University of North Carolina Chancellor James Moeser has raised objections to expansion in the past because of travel concerns, a point in the Pirates' favor, according to ECU Chancellor William V. Muse.

"There would clearly be major benefits for the state of North Carolina, tremendous benefits economically for the eastern portion of the state," Muse said. "There are a lot of reasons why state political leaders should take an interest."

ECU is currently a member of Conference USA, which doesn't get a Bowl Championship Series berth in football unless it finishes in the top six in the series standings. The ACC and the Big East are among the six leagues with guaranteed berths in the BCS bowls.

ACC spokesman Brian Morrison said Friday the conference is not commenting on the status of Virginia Tech's and Miami's bids to join the league until it officially hears from the schools. He did not return a call Friday seeking comment about the efforts on behalf of ECU to gain membership for the rapidly growing school.

Miami and Virginia Tech must inform Big East officials by Monday if they decide to join the ACC, obligating each to pay a $1 million exit fee. If they wait until after Monday to leave, the fee doubles.

"We're not tied to each other, we've been told," Shalala said, echoing what Steger said he understood on the day the invitation first came.

Miami's stay-or-go decision appears far less clear cut.

Shalala has expressed disappointment that the deal no longer includes Boston College or Syracuse, schools that gave Miami a desired link to its northeast recruiting and alumni bases. Those two schools are also spearheading a counterproposal from the Big East to get Miami to stay.

Previously, when the ACC expansion process was just beginning, the conference offered Miami a guaranteed $45 million over five years to stay.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said there was no ruling Friday concerning the lawsuit filed by four Big East football schools accusing the ACC and Miami of conspiring to destroy the Big East.

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

02/23/2007 10:36:46 AM

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