Miami Officially Accepts!

Today the University of Miami officially accepted the ACC's invitation and will begin as a full member in the 2004 season. Here are the quotes from the offical press conference this afternoon.

Opening Statement From President Donna Shalala:

I want to thank the Trustees, senior administrators, faculty, coaches, and student athletes. All of them have freely shared their views and their commitment to our programs.

The University of Miami will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004.

Earlier today, we notified the ACC and the Big East of our plans.

It has been a bizarre, strange, goofy process, but it has allowed us an opportunity to get a view of who we are, where we are, and where we want to be.

Over the past week, our colleagues in the Big East have been very gracious in urging us to stay and responding to our concerns. They have made a series of adjustments in our financial arrangements that were fair and justified, including consideration of a travel supplement.

We have nothing but the highest respect for the great universities of the Big East and their leaders. I, particularly, want to thank Chancellor Shaw and Father Leahy each of whom have shown leadership, patience, and understanding. They are two of the most outstanding leaders in higher education. We are reluctantly accepting the ACC invitation without them.

We accept the invitation from the ACC with enthusiasm. The ACC has built a remarkable conference based on equal treatment and high academic and athletic expectations. We have both. This is a good move for the University.

We look forward to joining them to build a strong academic conference to accompany their exceptional athletic conference.

Many people have communicated with me about goings on over the past few months. But I have not borne the brunt of the pressure or the analysis that led us to today. Paul Dee has. Let me thank him for his leadership, steadfastness, and love for this University. Paul

Athletic Director Paul Dee:

Thank you President Shalala, Chairman. This has been a very interesting time we have passed through, the last several months. And many of you have asked questions regarding, on what do we base our decision and why we based our decision the way that we did. Just so you have a flavor for it, I thought it would be appropriate today to somewhat explain our thought processes and decision making processes that we used.

The first issue in coming to our conclusion was based on the future security of our overall athletic program. Secondly we were interested in the long term rather than the near term, this is a decision for a long period of time and not a short period of time. The third item we looked at was the stability of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and its past and what we believe will be its future. Certainly the financial security of the program over the long term and finally the similarity between the institutions and programs, between ourselves and the members of that conference. Those essentially are the five issues and five reasons we considered as we went forward, but there were many more. The most difficult is the withdrawal from an organization where we spent since 1991 as a member and having competed since 1992 in the Big East Conference. Having been with those people for the past 12 great seasons, we have enjoyed our time there probably about as well as any team could, we have had a great deal of success in the BIG EAST Conference. This opportunity presented itself, we looked at all of these options and all of the reasons and we have come to what I think is an outstanding decision. Thank You.

Board of Trustees Chairman Phil Frost:

I will say very briefly that from a Trustees point of view this was primarily about the welfare of the students. Without getting into a lot of detail, the ACC was in the best interest short and long term for the students, especially the women athletes. We think that this is the right decision and we look forward to a lot of success with the ACC.

Questions/Answers

Q: Over the Weekend you said that you would have to think about this. Was it close, were you still 50/50 or were you already leaning one way or the other?

DS: It was still close over the weekend. As I indicated before, we had not specifically looked at the combination that the ACC had offered us. In addition, we accepted the responsibility with requests from both Chancellor Shaw and Father Leahy to take a very careful look at the proposals, including the additional proposals from the BIG EAST and we had correspondence with the BIG EAST about that. When we finally sat down, we looked at both the combination of financial offers as well as opportunities for our student athletes, and made the decision we did.

Q: When was the final decision made?

DS: This morning, Paul and I spoke yesterday, but basically this morning we put it on paper and made the decision.

Q: Did the ACC give you any indication about additional schools that might be added as the 12th school, and if so, would you have any say in that?

DS: They have promised us that we will have a say as well as every other ACC school in the future. Other than individuals indicating their support to go to twelve, they have not made an official commitment about that to me.

Q: Are their informal discussions about adding another school?

DS: Not with us. We're not in the ACC yet. We will compete in the ACC in 2004-2005.

Q: Was the BIG EAST desperate to keep you in?

DS: The BIG EAST was desperate to keep us in and the ACC was desperate to get us.

Q: So what made the offer to go to the ACC sweeter than the offer to remain in the BIG EAST?

DS: Well it wasn't money, because frankly the Big EAST made a better financial offer over the next five years. It was a sense of the future, they are fundamentally different in the way they distribute money and I think Paul will want to say something about that. In the BIG EAST that has worked for us up until now, the more successful you were the more money you got. If you look at the ACC it is an even distribution, everyone gets the same thing. In addition to that, the ACC could better accommodate all of our sports. It is a very strong conference for Olympic sports, Paul do want to say anything else about this.

PD: I think the president has captured this exactly right. I would say that throughout this, I think this gives the coaches a new opportunity; it is going to be a new group of people against whom to compete. I think it will help our programs over the long run.

Q: Money and Football always get talked about, but it is it fair to say that the driving force here might have been the Olympic Sports and some of the sports that don't get as much conversation as football does along with the academics?

DS: It is fair to say that there are four to five things that Paul listed. I would not argue that the Olympic Sports were the driver. I don't want to pretend that money was not a factor here, particularly in the long run. It would be disingenuous of us even thought the offer from the BIG EAST was a substantial offer. It was the combination; it's the overall fit for all of our programs. We are at the point where we have a comprehensive athletic program, and we want to make sure that all of our athletes see competitiveness in their sports, have a chance to take classes and get to their sports too at the same time. It was more comprehensive than simply a single item driving our decision.

Q: On the outside it was pretty wild watching the decision making process, how was it on the inside?

DS: Wild, goofy, bizarre. Even for those of us who are familiar with higher education. There is a famous political scientist that actually hired me at Columbia, who once said "The meanest, dirtiest form of politics is the politics of higher education, because the stakes are so low." Those of us who have spent our career in higher education are well aware that there is a kind of edge to our politics, but this was beyond any of our experiences.

Q: President Shalala, 18 months ago you are quoted as making a commitment to the BIG EAST, I am wondering were those comments accurate, and second were they relevant?

DS: They were accurate at the time, I obviously didn't say forever. Things change and opportunities come forward.

Q: Did the lawsuit or the comments made by Mike Tranghese last month play any role in the decision?

DS: No. I have the greatest respect for Mike, and I think he lost his cool here. He is one of the talented people in Collegiate Athletics and I feel bad about what he said and the situation he got himself into.

Q: Can you talk about playing out the last season in the BIG EAST, and how the relationships will be affected throughout the year?

DS: We are professionals. The decision has been made. Many of these people in the BIG EAST we have known for a long time. Will there be a little bit more competitiveness, maybe, although that is always good. The University of Miami can always step up to that.

Q: Would you get a say in which team to get if the ACC tries for a twelfth school?

DS: I have refused to answer hypothetical questions. If the situation presents itself to us, we'll make a decision. But I cannot predict the future with respect to that decision and I have got to wait to do what Paul tells me to do.

Q: Will the BIG EAST survive?

DS: Yes I believe so, but maybe Paul would like to comment on that, since he knows the schools better than I do.

PD: I think that the conference, the way it is constituted today, among the football schools in the conference with the absence of Virginia Tech and Miami, The BIG EAST still remains a viable conference. All you have to do is come to the game last year against Pittsburgh where it came down to the last play. They are waiting for us Thanksgiving Weekend in Pittsburgh. They are a terrific team, and we have had great games with West Virginia. In fact they have won the conference one of the years, Syracuse likewise. I can't remember the time we went to Boston College where we weren't in some bizarre game. Just go back over the last four times we have been to Boston College, it has really been an interesting series and great games, fortunately we have won all of them. But they are great teams, great people, great coaches, and great players. I think that all of those teams, combined with the teams they will be able to attract to fill out the league, will make it a viable and highly competitive league.

Q: Has the ACC approached you about going to the NCAA to petition for a conference championship?

PD: They haven't said that to me.

Q: How much sweeter was the financial deal offered by the BIG EAST?

DS: It was very sweet

Q: Can you talk a little more about it then, since many people think it is about money?

DS: Well it is, and I don't want to downplay that reason. The way they structure their finances, they can provide a bonus system when you are successful and that's the way the BIG EAST has operated. They made an enormous effort to take into account where we are located and what kind of security they could offer us over the next few years. So they made a serious effort on that side. It's basically based on performance and on distance, the supplement to travel.

Q: If you think that there isn't going to be a downside, and you would get more money from the BIG EAST with the bonuses. Then why is the ACC a better financial deal?

DS: Well your really betting on the future, in terms of the ACC, not on the short term. In many ways this was a choice between a group of institutions who have a sense of where they want to be in the future. That combined with their ability to more than accommodate our sports, and enhance our Olympic sports, made a big difference for us.

Q: Initially the BIG EAST schools said they did this behind their backs, can you comment on that?

DS: Paul notified the BIG EAST as soon as we knew.

PD: I would simply say that when anything happened the appropriate parties were notified right away. I don't think there was any action taken that was inappropriate.

Q: Can you talk about why the ACC academics are better than the BIG EAST?

DS: I didn't say that the academics were better. These are all fine universities amongst both the ACC and the BIG EAST. What the ACC is interested in is an academic conference like the BIG 10. The BIG 10 is not just an athletic conference but also a conference of the schools that share academics. In some cases applying for grants together, in other cases designing programs together, even sharing faculty and exchanging faculty and administrators. So the ACC is thinking about something broader, because of the homogeneity between the institutions that also was attractive to us. Particularly to me, coming from the BIG 10.

Q: Is there any decision made on divisions?

PD: I can say that when there were discussions of 12 teams or more that there was discussion of divisions. Not only a discussion of having them, but what sports to have them in, and who might be in them. But having dropped below 12, the discussion now is about having just one division. The talk of divisions I guess will be later deferred until they make a decision whether to go above 11. The decisions with respect to each sport is still being worked out. In football it would be impossible to play everybody and still play an outside schedule. I assume we will follow some format similar to the BIG 10 where one or two games are protected and the rest are rotated.

Q: Could you have comfortably gone back to the BIG EAST?

DS: Yes.

DS: Any other questions. Thank you very much.


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