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Pittsburgh, Syracuse move to ACC would put Big East, USF in limbo

Florida State president Eric Barron confirmed Saturday the ACC has received letters of application from Pittsburgh and Syracuse and said they could be approved as soon as today.

That would leave the Big East, including USF, scrambling to replace two of its longest tenured members.

USF joined the Big East in 2005, after the ACC lured Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the league. If the Orange and Panthers leave, the Big East would be reduced to six football-playing schools with TCU scheduled to join as the seventh next fall. Another member, West Virginia, is considered a candidate to become the 14th member of the SEC.

"We are aware of information reported by the media regarding some members of the Big East conference as well as other national news related to conference alignment," USF athletic director Doug Woolard and president Judy Genshaft said in a release. "This is certainly a time of tremendous change in intercollegiate athletics, and clearly, that change may continue.

"We have been monitoring the landscape and have been actively engaged in dialogue at the conference and national levels over the last 18 months. That will continue in earnest as we move forward."

The Big East, Pittsburgh and Syracuse declined to comment.

Barron said the ACC was excited about adding to its "northern tier."

"Pittsburgh and Syracuse … are solid academic schools, and the ACC is a truly academic conference," Barron said. "Certainly great basketball teams, a good history of football. I'm sure consideration will be very fast. I'll be surprised if it's not (today)."

Barron added 11 of 12 ACC presidents met Tuesday (one participated by phone) and unanimously approved raising the exit fee from $12 million to $14 million to $20 million.

"The conference is … committed to a unanimous commitment to staying together," N.C. State chancellor Randy Woodson said. "And to the extent that this is kind of a dramatic shift in conferences, we're trying to be proactive and stay strong."

The Big East's exit fee is $5 million, though schools must provide 27 months' notice.

A jump by Pittsburgh and Syracuse could lead to another dramatic shuffle in college athletics. Texas A&M has announced its intention to join the SEC, leaving the future of the Big 12 in doubt. The board of regents at Oklahoma and Texas are set to meet Monday to discuss options.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

driving force of Big East dies

Dave Gavitt, who helped create the Big East, died late Friday of a long illness in Rumford, R.I. He was 73. Mr. Gavitt coached Providence to the Final Four in 1973. In 1979, he was the driving force behind Providence, Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John's, Seton Hall, Boston College and Connecticut forming the Big East. (Villanova joined in 1980.) One of his first moves as commissioner was reaching a deal with a new TV network — ESPN. In 1983, he moved its tournament to Madison Square Garden, where it has played before sellout crowds since.

Pittsburgh, Syracuse move to ACC would put Big East, USF in limbo 09/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 17, 2011 10:41pm]
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