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Shifting alignments could involve East Carolina

From Staff and Associated Press Reports

Boston College is bolting the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference, which will almost surely set off the next round of musical chairs in the reordering of the college athletics landscape.

The Eagles will enter the ACC as its 12th member, guaranteeing the league a future football playoff game and another major television market.

The school had until Nov. 1 to accept the ACC's offer, but agreed in less than four hours after ACC presidents and chancellors voted unanimously Sunday to include BC in the league's expansion plans.

BC’s exit could open a slot for East Carolina in the Big East. The New York Post has published a story indicating that the league also has informally discussed adding Army and Navy as football-only members.

It has generally been reported that the Big East is planning to add Louisville and Cincinnati from Conference USA, although a source with access to information about ongoing deliberations said that Big East member Notre Dame is opposed to admitting the Bearcats.

If BC’s departure opens up another slot, the Pirates and South Florida may be the primary candidates to fill it. Having 44,040 fans on hand in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium last Saturday for a matchup of winless teams ECU and North Carolina is a feather in ECU’s cap.

C-USA also could be subjected to raids of its southwestern teams by the WAC and of non-football members Charlotte and Saint Louis by the Atlantic 10. C-USA has also discussed adding teams from among a group that includes Rice, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, Tulsa and Marshall to fill any vacancies that might be created in the changing landscape of conference affiliation.

C-USA presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

Recently crafted Big East by-laws require 27 months notice to leave that conference or the imposition of a reported $5 million exit fee upon the exiting school, meaning Boston College may not begin participating in ACC sports until 2006, Swofford said.

The addition of the Eagles will give the ACC the number of members required by the NCAA to stage a lucrative league championship football game in the future.

Boston College's president said athletics, academics and finances were reasons for the jump from the Big East.

"The ACC is a strong, stable conference," The Rev. William Leahy said. "The move to the ACC will generate greater revenues in the future."

The heads of ACC schools voted 9-0 in favor of extending the Eagles an invitation during a teleconference Sunday. Miami and Virginia Tech were added to the nine-team conference in late June and will begin play in 2004.

In a statement, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said: "We are extremely disappointed with Boston College's decision to leave. Our membership is very surprised that the ACC presidents continue to come back into our league for membership."

James Barker, Clemson president and head of the ACC's Council of Presidents, said it became apparent recently that an 11-team league was not ideal for the ACC.

"It's almost like a suit, you put it on and wear it for a while and then you decide it needs some alterations," Barker said. "In this case, this was true. We began to envision ourselves in the summer as one sized league and we felt an adjustment would be wise to position us for the future."

Boston College and Syracuse were the Big East schools in the ACC's original expansion plans — along with Miami — but were voted down in favor of adding the Hurricanes and Hokies. Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State voted against adding Boston College at the time.

But other pro-expansion schools in the ACC kept pushing for another member.

"Our position is we wanted to expand the league which we've done, expand the footprint," Florida State president T.K. Wetherell said. "We wanted those northeast markets and Boston gives us that opportunity."

ACC bylaws require campus visits of each school being considered for prospective membership. That requirement was satisfied before ACC presidents initially rejected Boston College for membership in June.

"They were one of the school's we targeted from the get-go," N.C. State football coach Chuck Amato said. "It's a big media market and they have a lot of good Italian food up there."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal threatened to sue Boston College if the school leaves the Big East. Four Big East schools have already filed suit against the University of Miami for leaving the Big East to join the ACC. A Connecticut judge dropped the ACC as a defendant in that lawsuit on Friday.

"Our claim is that Boston College is part of a continued conspiracy to weaken and destroy the Big East as a competitor for broadcast revenue and other rights," Blumenthal said Sunday.

The other members of the ACC are Virginia, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson.

Is ACC expansion now over?

"We would never say never, but adding B.C. is clearly a completion of that phase," Barker said. "The expansion idea has moved to the back burner, but it's not off the stove."

02.23.07 10:36 AM

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