Details on Pitt's departure from Big East confirmed
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg speaks in a joint press conference with Athletic Director Steve Pederson about the school's decision to move to the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).
University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg speaks during the press conference about the school's decision to move to the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference).
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The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents has unanimously voted to accept the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University as new members. The invitation followed the submission of letters of application from both universities.
That means Pitt and Syracuse, which have both officially accepted the invites, will become the 13th and 14th members of the league.
"This is an exciting day for the University of Pittsburgh. We have a long history of competing and collaborating with the distinguished universities that already are members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and have enormous respect for both their academic strengths and their athletic accomplishments," said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "In looking to our own future, we could not envision a better conference home for Pitt and are grateful to the Council of Presidents for extending an invitation to join the ACC community."
The ACC held a media teleconference today to make the announcement official. Officials proved unable to answer many questions.
Swofford said the discussions about expansion have gone on for at least the past 18 months but the conference didn't decide to expand to 14 teams until earlier this week. That's when it focused on Pitt and Syracuse.
Some of the issues addressed by ACC commissioner John Swofford, Nordenberg and Pederson included:
* There is no timetable for the expansion as the Big East has a 27-month waiting period for any school looking to withdrawal. That would mean Pitt and Syracuse wouldn't be eligible to join the ACC until the 2014-15 season and Swofford said the conference would honor that. Nordenberg made it clear that Pitt will try to get that period reduced. "In the coming weeks we will have some discussions with the Big East to see if the 27-month waiting period serves in everyone's best interests," Nordenberg said.
* Pitt and Syracuse will be full members in all sports.
* Pitt and Syracuse will pay the $5 million exit fee to the Big East.
* The ACC is not "philosophically opposed to going to 16 teams" but is also content to stay at 14 teams. There are plenty of reports that the conference now has its eye on Connecticut and Rutgers.
* There have been no decisions about what the divisions will look like once Pitt and Syracuse join or whether there will be divisions in the basketball league. Those discussions will take place once it is clear when exactly Pitt and Syracuse are eligible to join.
* Nordenberg made it clear that it was not Pitt that led the charge for the Big East to turn down the television contract offered by ESPN earlier this year. "Any characterizations that Steve or I led a charge against consumating a contract with ESPN are inaccurate," Nordenberg said.
* Nordenberg also said Pitt did not go behind the Big East's back on this subject and, in fact, he sent a letter to conference commissioner John Marinatto stating that Pitt would seriously consider all opportunities to join other conferences presented to it, especially if the Big East did not come up with solutions to some of the major issues facing the football conference.
* Swofford said he personally called Marinatto early Saturday morning to inform him that Pitt and Syracuse were going to be invited to the ACC.
* The ACC presidents voted to increase the exit fee for members to $20 million as a show of "solidarity and stability."
* Swofford said he could envision Madison Square Garden as a possible venue for the ACC basketball tournament, which rotates among several sites each year.
"The ACC has enjoyed a rich tradition by balancing academics and athletics and the addition of Pitt and Syracuse further strengthens the ACC culture in this regard," said Swofford. "Pittsburgh and Syracuse also serve to enhance the ACC's reach into the states of New York and Pennsylvania and geographically bridges our footprint between Maryland and Massachusetts. With the addition of Pitt and Syracuse, the ACC will cover virtually the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States."
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson added, "This is a very significant day for all of our student athletes, coaches and staff at the University of Pittsburgh. The strength and quality of the ACC is highly regarded by everyone at Pitt.
"When we set high expectations for our student athletes in their academic, athletic and personal goals, it is important to provide every opportunity and resource to enable that success. Joining the ACC and the outstanding institutions in this conference will give every Pitt student-athlete the chance to achieve their highest aspirations."
First Published September 18, 2011 8:36 am