Fla. State says yes to the ACC Conference will grow to nine July 1

September 15, 1990|By Don Markus

The Atlantic Coast Conference, a league widely acclaimed in basketball, was looking to improve its image nationally in football. Florida State, a national football power, was looking to upgrade its basketball program.

Now, as a result of Thursday night's invitation by the ACC and yesterday's acceptance by the Seminoles, a new image appears to be in the making for both.

"This is a significant step for them and a great move for us," said Florida State athletic director Bob Goin.

Though the official announcement is not expected until today's 10:30 a.m. news conference in Tallahassee, Fla., it's official: On July 1, 1991, Florida State will become the ACC's ninth member school.

The Seminoles will join the ACC next season in men's basketball and all non-revenue sports, with a full schedule in football by 1993 or 1994. ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan said Florida State will receive a full share of the football television package beginning next year.

"They bring a lot to the table," he said. "Their football team had more national television exposure last year than all our teams had together."

The ACC's gain may be the Southeastern Conference's loss. According to those familiar with Florida State's discussions about expansion, the SEC made it seem as if it were doing the Seminoles a favor, whereas the ACC showed how both sides could benefit.

The SEC did not take the news well. When word reached league offices in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday night that Florida State was going to join the ACC, University of Alabama president Roger Sayers announced that the SEC had no intention of inviting the Seminoles in the first place.

"I couldn't believe that a group of presidents would say that," one ACC athletic director said yesterday.

The ACC's decision to expand, which came after months of discussion, was opposed by Maryland and Duke; the decision to invite Florida State was unanimous. To extend the invitation, the ACC needed six votes from its eight members.

"It was tough," said Corrigan. "Some people had a very strong feeling that eight [teams] was best."

The biggest proponents of the eight-is-enough theory were Duke athletic director Tom Butters and newly appointed Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger. Although they came to the same conclusion, they had different reasons for reaching it.

Butters said yesterday that he didn't want the league to lose what it had gained over the years in basketball. Geiger said the logistics and financial strain of playing in a larger and more

geographically diverse league could be costly in the long run.

"Once we made a determination to expand, everyone wanted Florida State," said Butters. "But I had trouble with that first hurdle. I guess I'm slower than everybody else."

Geiger, who, according to league and Maryland sources, played a large role in school officials voting down expansion, said: "The positives are very clear. Florida State runs an attractive athletic program. It gives the ACC a chance to move into one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and opens up new markets."

The reaction in Tallahassee was as expected. Though some die-hard SEC football fans hoped the Seminoles would get to battle Florida for dominance in the state, school officials saw the move to the ACC as one that could help both sides.

"I think it's a fine marriage, but when you get married, you have some give and take," said Goin.

Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden, whose team has been ranked in the top five nationally the past four years, reportedly had been pushing Goin and Florida State president Bernard Sliger toward the ACC. Neither Bowden nor Sliger, whose recommendation to join the ACC was approved yesterday at a Florida State Board of Regents meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., could be reached for comment.

But Seminoles men's basketball coach Pat Kennedy can't wait to visit Tobacco Road.

"First and foremost, it puts us at the highest level in recruiting," said Kennedy, whose team reached the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in 1988 and 1989. "I think the greatest impact will be in that area."

The Florida State ticket office received what ticket manager John Sheffield called a "significant number" of requests for season tickets starting in 1991-92. The Seminoles play in a new 12,500-seat, city-owned arena off campus but sell out consistently only for Metro Conference rival Louisville.

Asked if the ticket requests were rare, Sheffield said: "In mid-September? On a Friday before a football game? It hasn't happened before."

Kennedy went as far as to say, "This may be the single-most powerful thing that's happened in basketball in the state of Florida."

It marks the fourth time in ACC history that the league has altered its membership, coming 11 years after Georgia Tech joined the conference.

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