SBD/September 20, 2011/Colleges

ACC Commissioner Swofford: Settled And Pleased Wtih 14 Schools, Not Opposed To 16

Swofford says he wants to be certain ACC is a viable, prominent player
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the conference is “settled and we’re pleased" with 14 members after the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh into the league on Sunday, though he added the league is "fundamentally and philosophically ... not opposed to 16 if it’s two schools that we feel that make us better as a conference and set our profile academically and athletically.” Swofford appeared on WQXI-AM in Atlanta yesterday to discuss the latest moves and said, “We still got our eye on the landscape and we’ll see what evolves. I’d be surprised if our movement is the only thing that happens in the near future. I guess that’s an understatement.” Big East President John Marinatto has told the N.Y. Times that the league plans to hold SU and Pitt to its contractual obligation to stay in the Big East until '14. Swofford said of when the schools would officially join the ACC, “We’re fine if it’s next year, and we’re fine if it’s several years from now, and that’s been part of our discussion about that from the beginning. ... We would love to have Pitt and Syracuse as soon as they can join us. With that said, we and the two institutions will be totally respectful of the Big East bylaws regarding a team exiting that league and currently those bylaws require a $5 million payment and a 27-month notice” (“Barnhardt & Durham,” WQXI-AM, 9/19). Swofford added, “There’s a great stability about the ACC and we certainly want to keep it that way and as we look forward and what may be happening in intercollegiate athletics, we just want to make certain that we’re a viable and prominent player.” He said, “I’ve never seen as much instability and potential fluidity in terms of schools and what conferences they may or may not be in” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/19).

MORE ON THE HORIZON? ESPN.com’s Andy Katz cited a source as saying that Univ. of Connecticut President Susan Herbst and basketball coach Jim Calhoun “were working the phones to continue to drum up interest from within the ACC.” The source said that UConn is “optimistic that interest is reciprocal but UConn officials have no idea about the ACC's timeline as to when it would decide if it would go to sixteen.” The source added that UConn officials “led by Herbst do not see remaining in a weakened Big East as a viable option” (ESPN.com, 9/19). Meanwhile, Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver yesterday said that “he would be open to the idea of the ACC expanding further into a 16-team conference, but that it depends on what schools were under consideration.” Weaver: “I was okay with 12; I’m okay with 14; and I’d be okay with 16 if it’s the right mix of institutions and it’s for the right reasons” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/19). Palm Beach Post reporter Tom D’Angelo said Swofford “has one-upped everybody in being the aggressor, and they seem to have the upper hand now in conference realignment” ("College Football Talk," Versus, 9/19).

BACK OUT EAST: In Syracuse, Mike Waters writes the Big East “had internal issues” and those “had a role in the departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.” The possibility of Villanova moving its football program from the FCS to the FBS “divided the Big East’s membership,” as well as the “decision to walk away from a television deal with ESPN that would have been worth $111 million a year for the next nine years.” The decision to walk away from ESPN’s offer “gave some schools cause for concern.” A source said that Pitt President Mark Nordenberg “was an advocate for trying to bargain a better deal when the Pac-12’s 12-year, $2.7 billion deal with ESPN and Fox became known.” Another source said that Marinatto “is caught in a bind, essentially serving two masters.” He has “the football-playing schools on one side of the table and the basketball-only schools on the other side” (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 9/20). SU AD Daryl Gross: “We did this individually. They weren’t aware of us; we weren’t aware of them. Not until the end.” He said, “We’re going to cooperate with our colleagues at the Big East and I’m sure that will all shake out when they figure out what their identity is and how we move forward. I don’t think we have an answer right now” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/20).
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