Deadline nears for Miami on ACC invitation

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2003

MIAMI (AP) After a seven-week courtship, one unresolved courtroom battle and last-ditch offers from the league that has them and the league that wants them, an answer is finally near to Miami's million-dollar question: Will the Hurricanes stay in the Big East or accept an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference?

Miami president Donna Shalala is expected to announce the school's decision today, the last day university officials can buy their way out of the Big East by paying a $1 million penalty. If Miami makes its plans known Tuesday or later, it could face a $2 million buyout.

Shalala and athletic director Paul Dee continued negotiations with both Big East and ACC officials through the weekend.

Syracuse chancellor Kenneth Shaw and athletic director Jake Crouthamel have been in regular contact with Miami's leaders over the weekend, Syracuse spokesman Kevin Morrow said Sunday.

''Phone lines have been burning up around the Big East the past several days,'' Morrow said. ''There's been a lot of conversations among the Big East presidents with the intentions of putting together a very strong proposal to keep Miami.''

Morrow said he had received no indications of what Miami's decision may be.

''I don't know the last time people in Syracuse rooted for Miami, but there's going to be a lot of people here doing that on Monday,'' Morrow said.

Virginia Tech, which was a late addition to the expansion saga, has already said it will accept the invitation it received last week to leave the Big East and join the ACC.

Several Miami officials and trustees declined comment or did not respond to messages left throughout the weekend. ACC spokesman Brian Morrison said Sunday that league officials haven't been made aware of Miami's decision.

Big East spokesman John Paquette said Sunday that Miami has not made its intentions known to conference officials, adding that his conference also has not received formal word from Virginia Tech, another perennial Big East football power, about its future affiliation.

ACC presidents voted May 13 to begin a process where their nine-school league would expand to 12, largely so it could add a conference football championship game, one that would raise $12 million or more annually.

Three days later, they announced their targets: Miami, Boston College and Syracuse.

But after a six-week process, Boston College and Syracuse were not extended formal invitations a surprising twist because ACC officials had never before made a site visit to expansion prospects without extending an offer to join the conference.

''We were told by some the site visit was merely a formality. ... We were told Boston College was a perfect fit for the Atlantic Coast Conference,'' Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo said.

So, spurned by the ACC, Boston College and Syracuse began leading an effort to keep Miami in the Big East. Miami officials had already received a $45 million, five-year guarantee to stay with their current conference; another proposal, spearheaded by the two schools the ACC declined, arrived in Miami Thursday.

''Since it came from Syracuse and Boston College, we are particularly obligated to give it a thoughtful response,'' Shalala said.

Shalala was also asked by university trustees Thursday to provide a clear indicator of what a move to an 11-team ACC would mean financially. Without a lucrative football title game, the ACC's projected revenues change dramatically from what Miami officials had originally been told.

Shalala said last week that Miami had made financial projections for a number of different scenarios but not one where it and Virginia Tech were the lone additions to the ACC.

Whatever Miami announces today, the legal wrangling over expansion will not be over.

A lawsuit filed in Connecticut contends Big East members Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia and Pittsburgh have spent millions on their football programs based on presumed loyalty from the other schools.

Virginia Tech was originally among the plaintiffs; it was removed from the case after its invitation to join the ACC came last week. Boston College and Miami were the original defendants; Miami now is the lone defendant, accused of participating in a conspiracy intended to weaken the Big East.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the lawsuit seeks to ''protect the Big East.'' Shalala said Miami's decision will not, in any way, be based on the lawsuit.

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