ACC invites Virginia Tech

RICHMOND, Va. -- Atlantic Coast Conference presidents will invite Virginia Tech to join three other Big East schools in jumping to the ACC as part of its expansion plan, two sources told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.

The sources spoke to The AP on the condition they not be identified.

The decision to add Virginia Tech was made during a three-hour teleconference of nine league presidents on Wednesday after it appeared that the original expansion involving Miami, Boston College and Syracuse would not get the required seven votes for approval, one source with knowledge of the talks said.

The suggestion to reconsider the Hokies was made by Virginia president John T. Casteen III, who has supported including Virginia Tech in the plan throughout. After the Hokies were first rejected last month, he pledged to continue pushing for their inclusion.

Virginia Tech president Charles M. Steger was notified of the ACC's change of heart in a meeting with Georgia Tech president T. Wayne Clough in Blacksburg, Va., on Wednesday night, the second source said.

Steger was expected to speak with members of the school's Board of Visitors on Thursday to gauge their feelings on whether Virginia Tech should accept the offer.

Steger and others at Virginia Tech have been among the most outspoken critics of the ACC's expansion plan, which would leave the remaining schools in a stripped down Big East with an uncertain athletic future. Virginia Tech is one of five Big East football schools that filed suit on June 6 against the ACC, Miami and Boston College trying to stop expansion.

Casteen, who left later Wednesday for a vacation in Europe and was not available for comment, was seen as having the possible deciding vote on expansion -- one that could have dealt Virginia Tech athletics a serious blow if he approved the plan.

Casteen offered Virginia Tech as an expansion target on May 16, but the suggestion was voted down by the league's presidents, who then decided to pursue the other three schools.

Casteen also has been under pressure from Gov. Mark R. Warner and other state officials to do whatever he could to protect Virginia Tech's athletic viability.

The latest teleconference was the third among the ACC's presidents and chancellors in recent days. The calls lasted a total of eight hours but never ended in a consensus, with Duke and North Carolina raising concerns about travel costs, student welfare and projected revenues of an ACC football title game and future TV contracts.

ACC spokesman Brian Morrison said commissioner John Swofford had no comment on the issues discussed in Wednesday's teleconference or when another one would be scheduled.

A Big East spokesman said Wednesday night the conference would have no comment on the report of Virginia Tech's invitation.

William C. Latham, a member of Virginia Tech's Board of Visitors, said Steger's secretary called Wednesday afternoon to schedule a telephone appointment for Thursday. Latham said he did not know what the phone call would be about.

Virginia Tech officials initially spoke of wanting to either see the Big East remain intact or for it to be included in an ACC expansion plan. After the three other schools were selected, Virginia Tech joined Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers and Connecticut in the lawsuit accusing the ACC, Miami and Boston College of trying to ruin the Big East.

Phone messages left at Steger's home Wednesday night were not returned.

"This has been a longer process than I thought it would take," North Carolina State athletic director Lee Fowler said before the decision to pursue Virginia Tech was revealed. "There have been things that have popped up that I thought had been resolved earlier."

The Big East schools leaving for the ACC must each pay a $1 million exit fee. The penalty doubles after June 30.

"Everybody is ready for this to be over," said Fowler, who was on two of three site visits conducted by a team of ACC officials. "It gets frustrating, but nobody is going to do anything until they get all the facts and feel comfortable with them.

"I assumed if we made these visits and things were good at these universities that it would just move along," he added. "But I still knew we had more work to do."

That includes divisional alignment, an item in which more than 35 options have been discussed, Fowler said.

"None of this has surprised me because I've been through it in other leagues," said Fowler, who acknowledged getting nine schools on the same page is often difficult. "Even with great things, there are differences of opinions."


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