Virginia Attorney General signs onto lawsuit


 By DONNA TOMMELLEO
 The Associated Press
 6/12/03 6:55 PM
 
 
 HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The attorney general of Virginia added his name Thursday to the Big East lawsuit seeking to stop the Atlantic Coast Conference's expansion plans.
 
 In a move designed to increase pressure on all ACC schools -- especially Virginia -- attorney general Jerry Kilgore signed on to motions filed by plaintiffs Pittsburgh, UConn, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Rutgers.
 
 The lawsuit, filed against the ACC, Miami and Boston College last Friday in state Superior Court, seeks millions of dollars and an injunction to stop the two schools from moving from the Big East to the ACC. Syracuse is also a candidate to jump to the ACC.
 
 When the lawsuit was filed, the names of two Virginia assistant attorneys general were listed as counsel for Virginia Tech. Kilgore decided to place his own name on the lawsuit Thursday.
 
 "The attorney general remains fully supportive of Virginia Tech's rights to protect its own interest," said Kilgore's spokesman, Tim Murtaugh. "Virginia Tech really needs to be affiliated with a viable athletic conference."
 
 If the ACC plan goes forward, it would put Virginia in a strong, 12-team league, but would leave Virginia Tech in a stripped-down Big East.
 
 Kilgore is the second high-profile politician from the Commonwealth State to weigh in on the issue. Earlier this week, Gov. Mark Warner urged the parties to find an outside mediator to intervene and avoid a long, expensive legal battle.
 
 Kilgore's addition to the lawsuit is key because it puts him squarely on the side of Virginia Tech in a legal battle between two state universities. Leaders at Duke and North Carolina are opposed to the expansion and Virginia president John T. Casteen III is a key swing vote. Seven of the nine ACC schools must approve expansion.
 
 ACC presidents spoke by teleconference Wednesday night, and for the second straight evening, delayed a vote on expansion. ACC commissioner John Swofford said the lack of a vote didn't indicate the plan was falling apart. He said the next conference call will take place no sooner than next week.
 
 The motion filed Thursday called for Miami president Donna Shalala, athletic director Paul Dee, Swofford and 11 others to give depositions as soon as next month.
 
 "This state will enable us to escalate the pace and pressure of this litigation. We need to play hardball," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose name was already on the lawsuit. "We will seek documents and sworn depositions from major witnesses on the other side to substantiate what we believe were false statements and misleading promises made."
 
 ACC spokesman Brian Morrison declined comment. Charles C. Kline, an attorney for Miami, said he had not been made aware of Thursday's filings. Dee was traveling and unavailable for comment.
 
 In other developments, the faculty at Duke issued a statement calling for a further delay on the expansion vote. The faculty expressed concerns that educational matters weren't being considered in the expansion.
 
 In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush criticized the lawsuit.
 
 "I think a university should be able to associate with any set of universities they want," he said.

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