The Way ACC Expansion Was

Miami president Donna Shalala, whose school could pay a $2 million fine if a decision is not made on Monday, will stand before millions of observers and announce the 'Canes decision to the rest of the world.

However, the beginning of this momentum gaining fiasco goes back several months to when it began.

Early this year, ACC administrators realized they had to look into salvaging a television deal in 2005 that was once deemed dismal. Already the weakest television contract among the BCS conferences sat sinking, as no teams finished the 2002-2003 season among the Top 10. As teams in the middle pushed their way among the rest of the nation, none remained among the elite.

Things had to change and soon, bringing two ideas to the table. One was a reprise of past expansion in the form of the Miami, which once turned away the allure of the ACC for the Big East in 1991. In the eyes of the ACC, there had to be no way the school would balk again at attempts to bring the Hurricanes aboard for fear of hurting the presence of the conference. Before any offer was extended, league officials had to go through a grueling process to assure the acceptance by both the schools' current presidents and Miami's. At the request of Miami, two schools would be hand picked to join the conference. Their selection included Boston College and Syracuse.

Behind the scenes with the ACC, another attempt took place to bring Notre Dame into the picture. The Fighting Irish recently finished a remarkable season in the eyes of the national press. And the football team, forever independent of conference affiliation, would entice television deals. The Irish would enter the ACC on a full-term basis in basketball and non-revenue sports, and as a partial member in football. The deal was unheard of at the national level, and Notre Dame officials asked for a 90 days to make a decision.

That decision remains ongoing.

As the two scenarios became intertwined, another was thrown together by Virginia statesmen such as Governor Mark Warner, who threatened to force the University of Virginia into nixing any type of vote. And in doing so, hampering Virginia Tech's financial state. UVA leaders stood fast in their stance against all expansion not including Virginia Tech, and the Hokies became a winner in the process.

In a late conference call on June 25, the expansion vote took place.

North Carolina and Duke voted against expansion of any sort, as they promised to do from the start. First, the school presidents had to vote on which teams would fill the three slots available – coming up with the version of Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech was the first team on which they would vote, and it passed with a 7-2 margin. Miami followed with the same tally. But Boston College became the deal-breaker, as N.C. State would provide, giving the ACC the ability to extend offers to Miami and Virginia Tech.

The following day, Clemson president James Barker flew into Blacksburg, Va., to view the facilities. At 2:30 p.m., Virginia Tech withdrew their name from the seemingly frivolous lawsuit, and accepted an unconditional offer to enter the ACC.

Now, sources are reporting that Miami will accept an offer to enter the ACC at a joint press conference with Virginia Tech on Monday.

Expansion was all about the football contract of 2005. They never thought they could get Miami and Virginia Tech so they went about trying to get TV markets. To gauge the importance of TV markets, go to the SEC and see how their contracts to markets ratio stack against the Big East.

With Virginia Tech and Miami, the ACC becomes the best football conference in the nation. With six teams in the Athlon's preseason Top 25, the ACC is tied for the most with SEC, but with the highest average rank. Not bad when discussing TV deals.

The extra team leaves room for Notre Dame or a basketball school to enter for the ‘06 or ‘07 basketball TV deal. If The Irish say no, then Kentucky is the next head on the ACC chopping block. Although three years of courtship could help, it all depends on Notre Dame's own TV deal with NBC and how well its football team performs.

The ACC looks at itself as it should, a big business towards which college sports is evolving to earn money should college students ask for a piece of the pie. The ACC has looked ahead not for the good of the overall landscape of the field, but for a chance to keep itself together in the game of bigger is better. It has taken two teams for the good of a television contract, and what is done is done.

Now the question will be: Who's next?

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