Big East implores Miami not to leave conference for ACC

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese won't let his conference fade away without a fight.

Admitting the Big East is in crisis, Tranghese claimed Monday that a move by Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference would "be the most disastrous blow to intercollegiate athletics in my lifetime."

That line was the highlight of the commissioner's bombastic 30-minute news conference, a whopper of a show designed to sway public opinion and put pressure on Miami president Donna Shalala.

Tranghese said during Day 3 of these crucial, five-day conference meetings athletic directors talked about money, integrity and history, and how all related to Miami's crucial decision, which will likely trigger similar decisions by two other ACC targets, Syracuse and Boston College.

Tranghese recalled 1991, when Miami was an independent, its athletic programs were in shambles, and nobody was asking the Hurricanes to join their league.

"I said, 'We will help you in a lot of ways and you'll help us,"' Tranghese said. "And we've done that. So, we're going to end that, and damage the people who've extended this opportunity? I find that unacceptable."

Tranghese asked Shalala to honor Miami's commitment to the Big East and recognize how drastically a move could harm college sports.

The commissioner implored Miami and the other two schools to appreciate the history of a conference that began in 1979, helped revive college basketball on the East Coast and, most recently, became a powerhouse in several sports.

He called on Shalala and Miami athletic director Paul Dee to closely examine the ACC's proposed financial package, which he doesn't believe is much better than what the Big East could offer.

A domino effect

Then, in the highlight of the news conference, Tranghese said a Miami move would start a domino effect that could forever alter college sports for the worse.

"At the end of the day, President Shalala is going to have to look at the issues we've talked about, have to look at financial obligations, have to look at integrity issues," Tranghese said. "And then she's going to have to factor in the irreparable harm that's going to be caused to members of my league.

"Aside from that, and this will sound self-serving, this will be the most disastrous blow to intercollegiate athletics in my lifetime. It's wrong."

Tranghese ruled out trying to poach teams out of other leagues to give the Big East the 12-team setup Dee and many others believe is the wave of the future. He dismissed the ACC's oft-advanced idea that it needs to get to 12 teams to protect itself from being scavenged by other conferences.

"I don't know where the danger is coming from," Tranghese said. "I don't know any situation where anyone has tried to engage the ACC in any bit of expansion discussion."

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