Boston College accepts invitation to join ACC

With 12 teams, title game in football will be allowed


October 13, 2003|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

More than three months after expanding to 11 schools with the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech, the Atlantic Coast Conference widened its boundaries with yesterday's announcement that Boston College has been invited to join the league.

Boston College, a charter member of the Big East, immediately accepted the invitation.

The move, which came less than a week after the ACC announced it would proceed with a scheduling model for an 11-school league, was precipitated by an NCAA committee rejecting the ACC's attempt to get a waiver in order to hold a football championship game. A conference must have 12 members to hold a title game in that sport.

It also came a few months after Boston College, as well as Syracuse, failed to gather enough votes for membership by ACC presidents in early summer. Requiring at least seven of the nine schools to approve, Boston College was voted in unanimously during a conference call yesterday.

The league's presidents and chancellors also gave their approval to a football championship game.

"It's almost like a suit: you put it on and wear it for a while and then you decide it needs some alterations," said Clemson president James Barker, chairman of the ACC's Council of Presidents. "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."

During a news conference at the league's headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., ACC commissioner John Swofford said: "This just adds one more excellent school to what now will be a 12-member mix. If you look at their graduation rates, BC will jump right into the higher echelon of our conference. They bring a lot on both fronts.`

Boston College president Rev. William Leahy said that the move made sense because of its academic, athletic and financial ramifications.

ACC schools earned nearly $8 million from football and men's basketball through revenue generated by its most recent television contracts, as well as from bowl games and NCAA basketball tournament appearances.

With a football championship game, the ACC will likely earn $6 million-$10 million in revenue for its members to share. Under Big East bylaws that were changed after Miami and Virginia Tech left, BC will have to pay the league a $5 million exit fee if it leaves within the next 27 months.

Miami and Virginia Tech, which were required to pay only $1 million and give a year's notice, are set to play full ACC schedules beginning in 2004. BC officials have said they are considering whether the Big East's decision to drastically raise the exit fee was within the league's bylaws.

The Big East reportedly has considered adding schools from Conference USA for basketball and football, most notably Louisville. Big East presidents will meet in Philadelphia on Nov. 4 to discuss potential moves.

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."

Once BC joins, the ACC will have two six-team divisions in football. The Eagles likely will be in Maryland's division, though not necessarily a regular twice-a-season opponent for men's and women's basketball.

"I'm very happy that we've got 12 teams," Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen said in his weekly teleconference yesterday. "I think Boston College is a very good fit for academics, football and basketball. ... I think it's the best football conference in the country bar none."

Though the league is still going to try to hold a championship football game if BC's departure from the Big East is slowed, Swofford said: "Obviously an 11-team league can't work in the best way that you would like."

Friedgen said that BC's addition should help Maryland football games get televised into the Northeast.

"One of the things that has frustrated me is that if a game is a regional TV game, it doesn't go past Delaware," Friedgen said. "Now we're the northern-most team in the ACC, we'll get better exposure there and that's going to open it up even more for us."

Said Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow, who has supported BC's candidacy from the beginning: "We need to stretch our footprint. We need to truly become the Atlantic Coast Conference. We believe that means having a formal official presence in the Northeast, which we now will have."

Yow, the chairman of the league's television committee, said that she and Swofford can meet with ABC representatives about a new television contract.

Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams coached at BC in the early 1980s.

"Boston College has historically been good in basketball; Al Skinner does a good job," said Williams. " ... BC has shown at times that they were capable of being able to play with anybody in the country. It adds a strong basketball team to our league."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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