ACC energizes Panthers' transition

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The Big East Conference will have its annual spring meeting next month in Florida, but Pitt will not be represented there for the first time since joining the conference 30 years ago. Instead, athletic director Steve Pederson and his coaches will attend the Atlantic Coast Conference meetings.

The transitional period when switching conference affiliation can be a trying and awkward time for institutions and their athletic teams, but Pederson chose to use another word Thursday.

"It's been energizing," said Pederson, who returned Wednesday from two days of ACC administrators meetings in Greensboro, N.C., where a number of issues, including the Bowl Championship Series, were discussed.

Pederson said he left Greensboro more convinced that Pitt made the right decision in September to leave the Big East for the ACC. He was moved by the ACC postgraduate scholarship luncheon where 40 student-athletes were awarded $5,000 in scholarship money.

"I was sitting there thinking I can't wait for our student-athletes to be a part of this," Pederson said. "This conference really does have all the right ideals -- academics and athletics combined into excellence. It was a reaffirmation of how terrific a move this was for us."

But when exactly that move will happen hasn't been decided by the Big East. The conference has a 27-month exit clause for schools that choose to leave, but commissioner John Marinatto hinted at the Big East men's basketball tournament in March that a 2013 departure for Pitt and Syracuse could happen.

Pederson expects that to happen, and the sooner that decision is made final the better.

"Hopefully, we're moving through a process that will have a fairly quick resolution for all of us," he said. "The ACC and Pitt and Syracuse have done the right thing to make the transition as easy as possible for all concerned. The Big East had the opportunity to re-form. They've done that. And we know where we're going. So I hope we can reach an agreement soon. The sooner the better for everyone involved. There's no deadline, but the sooner the better."

Pederson said Pitt is being treated fairly during the exit process, but there some awkwardness. Just as Pitt had hard feelings for Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami when those schools left the Big East in 2004, the remaining Big East members are not enamored of Pitt and Syracuse.

Pederson has had conversations with Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver and Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo, as well as former Miami athletic director Paul Dee, about the transition. They all went through it eight years ago when they left the Big East for the ACC.

"Jim and I are very close, and we've talked about it a lot," Pederson said. "Jim has been very helpful. They've all been helpful outlining what to expect. We're like Boston College. We have to stay for another year whereas Virginia Tech and Miami didn't have to do that.

"I do have to say the Big East has been very respectful throughout the process. I don't think they've treated us any differently than before. I didn't quite know what to expect. But they've been terrific. We have a great history with all of these schools."

Pederson said the most difficult thing for him during the transition is being true to the athletes who are going to be seniors in the fall. Pitt is making the move to better the university in the future, but he said he wants to give the current athletes every opportunity to have a positive experience in the Big East.

"We know where the future lies for us, but it's important that we give the student-athletes that are here now everything they need to succeed when they're here. We want them to win Big East championships. We're doing everything we can to make sure they have a great year.

"The hardest part of all of this is making sure we do everything right until we do move forward. We may be going to another conference, but we want to win now. The athletes have to know that they have our support in doing that."

Pederson said he is not overly concerned about not having a voice in the Big East while Pitt is still an active member. Scheduling matters, decisions about conference tournaments and other important matters will be discussed by the Big East next month when Pederson and his coaches will be looking toward the future at the ACC meetings.

"It's going to be different not being there, but the way I look at it is I can't do anything about it," he said. "I think we've been treated fairly, and I think we'll continue to be treated fairly."

Inside

Pitt's offensive line will feature two new tackles, but it's still a work in progress. Page D-6.

pittbball

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published April 13, 2012 12:00 AM


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