The future of the Big East Conference is in question as the Atlantic Coast Conference has approved an expansion to 12 teams, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

ACC officials had been in talks with University of Miami officials before Tuesday’s vote, in which the ACC’s nine member schools opted to increase the size of the conference by the start of the 2005-06 school year. Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech had also been considered possibilities for leaving the Big East for the ACC.

The motion passed by a margin of 7-2, with Duke and North Carolina voting against.

“There are still a couple of issues, but the ACC will be expanding,” John Thrasher, chairman of Florida State’s board of trustees, told The Charlotte Observer. “Miami really wants Syracuse as part of its package. We definitely want Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, but a couple of ACC schools have a different view of that.”

According to Thrasher, Virginia supported the decision to expand but recommended Virginia Tech in place of Boston College.

Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was initially a critic of expansion, saying he feared the end of annual home-and-home series with rivals like Maryland and North Carolina State. North Carolina officials shared many of Krzyzewski’s concerns, but the Duke coach recently admitted that he felt that basketball interests were being given fair consideration.

In recent years, two major defections have occurred in the NCAA, one in 1996 and the other in 1999, and both were motivated by the desire for money. The former incident essentially put an end to the Southwest Conference as Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech left to make the Big Eight the Big 12. The latter involved the break of eight teams from the then-16-team Western Athletic Conference, who formed the Mountain West Conference, bringing together the best teams of the WAC’s two divisions.

“When you look at what various leagues have done – being successful going to 12 teams – I think going to 12 teams is in the best interest of the [ACC],” Maryland men’s basketball coach Gary Williams said. “For everything involved.”

Expansion to 12 teams opens many doors for the ACC, including the opportunity to play a lucrative football title game. With the addition of Syracuse or Boston College, the ACC would encompass even more of the East Coast, increasing the potential profits from the conference’s next television contract. The northernmost school at present is Maryland.

Though the focus of the expansion is football, the ACC would benefit in baseball and other lower-profile sports as well. If it were to force Miami, which has one of the best baseball programs in the country, to play in the conference, the ACC would only add to its collection of powerhouses including Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Additionally, the Hurricanes offer volleyball, the Golden Eagles offer men’s soccer and the Orangemen offer men’s and women’s lacrosse.

The departure of any teams from the Big East could potentially cripple the conference that spawned this year’s NCAA men’s and women’s basketball champions and the NIT champion. Miami, who lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in January, also has one of the nation’s elite football programs.

ESPN.com published several scenarios earlier this week in which changes in the makeup of the ACC and the Big East could alter the entire landscape of college sports. Even the Big 12, the Big Ten and Conference USA could feel far-reaching effects.

However, of the seven scenarios, only one option would keep the Hoyas in the Big East. The rest would send Georgetown – as well as Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova – out to pasture because of their lack of Division I-A football programs.

A possibility would include these teams, in addition to several others, like Dayton, DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame and Xavier, forming a Catholic League for which basketball would be the sole motivation.

Georgetown Senior Sports Communications Director Bill Shapland declined to comment on the potential change in the Big East. He also would not comment on whether or not the university had been contacted by conference officials regarding possible defections.

The expansion is expected to be the main topic of discussion at the Big East’s annual spring meetings, which will begin Saturday in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

“Something has to be done in the next week,” Georgia Tech director of athletics Dave Braine said of the ACC’s next move. “The Big East is holding their meetings and you know they are going to do something. We can’t just wait. No doubt they are going to move forward.”

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese told The New York Times, “We’re talking about keeping the league together and we’re talking to Miami about the advantages of staying here. We have been a great partner for them, as they have been for us.”

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.