University of Miami ACC bound

University of Miami president Donna Shalala’s message to the Clemson president James Barker and the rest of the ACC on Monday was very simple: “Ready or not, here we come.”
Five days after receiving an invitation from ACC commissioner John Swofford to join what is arguably considered most prestigious athletic conference in the country, the Hurricanes accepted the invitation, and becomes the 11th member of the ACC.
Miami joins Virginia Tech, who formally accepted their invitation last Friday, as the two newest members of the conference, and will begin play in the 2004-2005 season.
“We accept the invitation from the ACC with great enthusiasm,” Shalala said. “The ACC has built a remarkable conference based on equal treatment and high academic and athletic excellence. We have both. This is a good move for the University of Miami.”
The move comes after several weeks of proposals from both conferences, as well as a lawsuit from presidents of four Big East schools. In addition, the invitation of Virginia Tech left Boston College and Syracuse, two schools initially rumored to follow Miami into the ACC, on the outside looking in. Shalala said she was “deeply disappointed” in the decision not to invite BC and Syracuse.
However, UM would eventually make the move, despite turning down a five-year proposal from the Big East, rumored to be worth $45 million. Shalala didn’t bury the financial importance in the decision, but said there were other factors as well.
“The ACC is thinking about something broader because of the homogeneity of the institutions,” Shalala said. “That was something attractive to us, particularly me coming from the Big 10.”
One thing that attracted Shalala and Athletic Director Paul Dee was the distribution of money within conference members. While the Hurricanes would currently benefit from the Big East’s “more success, more money” budget, the ACC’s even distribution of funds among its 11 members fits in more with the school’s thought process.
“We were interested in the long term, rather than the near term,” Dee said. “This is a decision for a long period of time.”
Miami and Virginia Tech, who combined to win nine of the Big East’s 12 football championships, now join an ACC conference that includes in-state rival Florida State, as well as Duke, North Carolina and Maryland. The conference in currently one team short of the required 12 members that it would take to produce a lucrative championship game. Shalala said there has been no plans for right now to acquire a 12th team.
“They have not made an official commitment to me,” Shalala said. “We are going into the ACC with 11 schools.”
Several Miami coaches, including basketball head coach Perry Clark, and baseball coach Jim Morris, attended the press conference. Clark, who has come under criticism after an 11-17 season last year, says the move has several positives for the players.
“I think they’ll look forward to it,” Clark said. “They’re looking forward to going to some places that they’ve seen on TV. Right now, what we have to do is get on the phone and change our recruiting.”
The moves by Miami and Virginia Tech leave the Big East conference with just six football members. Although a statement released by Big East commisioner Mike Tranghese stressed the importance of the conference “moving on,” the pending lawsuit still stands to be heard in a Connecticut court.
Dee says the Big East will still be a force in the entire athletic landscape, including football.
“The Big East remains a viable conference,” Dee said. “All you have to do was come out to our game against Pitt last year, which came down to the final play.”