Change of Pace?

After a weekend to gather their collective breaths, the ACC and the Big East (and the schools in between) are beginning to move again on the topic of expansion. The question is, has the direction been changed?

The presidents of North Carolina and Duke Universities have both authored missives that, while not saying they will vote against expansion, express concerns over the process. While this by no means would suggest that the ACC expansion raid on the Big East is ready to crumble, it does show that the lawsuit filed by the "firm five" conference schools is being given some weight.

The suit, which was being brushed off as trivial in some quarters, has at least caused some ACC presidents to question the actions that have been taken so far.

Duke president Nan Keohane reportedly wrote an e-mail saying that, "In order to feel even minimally comfortable with voting for an action that will have serious consequences for these peer institutions, I would have to be considerably more positive than I am now that the decision is actually the best one for our student athletes and for our conference."

In related developments, Jeffrey Mishkin, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, issued a statement on Monday calling for a speedy beginning to the litigation, and a warning to the defendants not to destroy any documents or communications related to the case.

"We have today notified the attorneys representing Miami, Boston College and the ACC that we will be seeking both accelerated discovery in this case and placement of the case on the court's complex litigation docket," Mishkin said in the prepared statement. "Accelerated discovery will allow us to quickly take depositions from key individuals and secure speedy access to key documents and other evidence. Placement of the case on the complex litigation docket will have the effect of expediting the litigation itself. We have also reminded the attorneys for Miami, B.C. and the ACC of their clients' legal obligation to safeguard and preserve all evidence that may be relevant to the case."

While this call for an accelerated pace might appear at odds with the initial goal of slowing down the pace at which the expansion vote was proceeding, in reality it could well apply the brakes even further. The defendants will almost assuredly have to begin looking for evidence to either counter the suit's claims and to preserve and compile evidence, which very well could take their focus off the expansion process.

In the end, of course, its unlikely that any legal action could force the breakaway schools to stay in the Big East conference. However, should one more ACC school lean the way North Carolina and Duke appear to be moving, and the process could be, repeat, could be, squelched from the ACC end.

ACC schools were expected to begin the expansion voting process as early as today (Tuesday) via a conference call among the university presidents. There was no immediate word available as to whether the misgivings expressed on Monday would affect that timetable.

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