Miami joins ACC after rejecting final Big East proposals

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

P Addition of Miami, Virginia Tech makes ACC formidable in football.

By David Droschak ~ The Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The jokes about Atlantic Coast Conference football being Florida State and the eight dwarfs will stop with the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech.

The two best football programs in the Big East left that conference Monday to join the ACC -- a league that has mostly earned a national reputation on the hardwood for a half-century -- not necessarily on the gridiron.

The addition of the five-time national champion Hurricanes and the powerful Hokies gives the ACC three teams that have played in the football title game in the past five seasons. Miami played in the last two, while Florida State was in the previous three.

Virginia Tech, with Michael Vick at quarterback, lost to the Seminoles in the 2000 Sugar Bowl and have been in The Associated Press Top 25 eight of the last 10 seasons.

"It gives us a strength in the sport of football that maybe this league has never had in its history," ACC commissioner John Swofford said. "Anything close to this you would have to go back a long, long way to maybe the first decade of the conference.

"It certainly puts us on a par football-wise with any conference in the country and gives us an extraordinary balance in terms of basketball and football. We've added strength on the football side at a time when our existing programs are getting better and better and better."

Six teams in the top 25

Last season, Miami finished second in the AP poll, while North Carolina State was 12th, Maryland 13th, Virginia Tech 18th, Florida State 21st and Virginia 22nd.

Conversely, Big East football is now in shambles. The Hurricanes and Hokies leave behind Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia and Connecticut without much chance of keeping a Bowl Championship Series spot beyond 2005 unless that league raids another conference.

"It leaves the remaining Big East schools in a precarious situation," Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel said. "We're clearly weakened by this."

Big East officials said Monday discussions had already begun about replacing Miami and Virginia Tech.

"They're going to get the right teams to come in to get the numbers they'd like to get, to make it as strong a conference as we possibly can," Connecticut football coach Randy Edsall said.

Duke and North Carolina, the ACC's two basketball pillars, voted against expanding from nine to 11 schools. However, UNC chancellor James Moeser acknowledged in a telephone interview from Chicago that adding the two Big East schools will help the league's football image.

"This makes the ACC a very powerful force in football," Moeser said. "It is what drove this from the beginning. It doesn't bother me because football revenues are key to supporting all the non-revenue sports."

Basketball will be a different story. Miami had an RPI ranking of 188 in hoops last season, while the Hokies were 200th. The lowest ranked ACC team was Clemson at 107.

Miami and Virginia Tech were also a combined 22-35 last season.

"We've just finished celebrating the 50th anniversary of the league. Now as we begin the next 50 years its obviously going to be a very different landscape," N.C. State basketball coach Herb Sendek said.

"In some cases we'll help those programs rise up to our level," added Wolfpack athletic director Lee Fowler, a former assistant basketball coach for Memphis State.

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