TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Four months after being jilted at the altar, Boston College accepted a second-chance marriage Sunday to join the expanded Atlantic Coast Conference. The unanimous approval of nine ACC presidents, something unattainable during the original expansion voting, has transformed the ACC into a 12-team league that stretches into three of the nation's largest television markets.
"Securing three additional schools to expand our conference proved to be challenging in ways no one could have imagined," said Florida State athletic director Dave Hart, summing up a once-contentious process that started in early summer. "Boston College is an excellent addition. I am happy for all involved."
Shortly after the invitation was extended Sunday, Boston College formally accepted. The move sets the stage for further reshuffling of the Big East Conference and other major conferences in college athletics.
"The ACC is a strong, stable conference," said the Rev. William Leahy, the school's president. "The move to the ACC will generate greater revenues in the future."
The Big East Conference, which has sued the ACC with Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal leading the litigation, now has lost three of its top football programs (Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College) to the ACC.
"We are extremely disappointed with Boston College's decision to leave," said Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. "Our membership is very surprised that the ACC presidents continue to come back into our league for membership."
The ACC wanted Notre Dame for its 12th team. But when the Irish stayed lukewarm, preferring to keep independence in football, the ACC knew it needed to act quickly.
Boston College, which was pushed by Florida State as one of the three schools for the original expansion plan, along with Miami and Syracuse, will pay a $1 million penalty to leave the Big East.
Syracuse, meanwhile, which didn't receive enough votes among ACC presidents in June, will look to keep the Big East intact.
Boston College likely will be placed in a division with Florida State, Maryland, Clemson, Wake Forest and North Carolina State and compete for next season's ACC football title. The other six teams will be in an opposing division. The plan is for the division winners to meet in an ACC Football Championship game, possibly as soon as next season if it can be arranged.
Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium has emerged as the favorite to land the first ACC Championship Game. Both Miami and Florida State are pushing to keep the game in Florida. Other contenders are Orlando (Citrus Bowl Stadium) and Charlotte N.C. (Ericsson Stadium).
"Our position is we wanted to expand the league -- which we've done -- expand the footprint," said Florida State president T.K. Wetherell. "We wanted those northeast markets, and Boston gives us that opportunity."
In a matter of months, the ACC has taken the boldest revision of its 50-year history. The conference has transformed from a Tobacco Road centerpiece to an Eastern Seaboard conglomerate, stretching along I-95 from Boston to Miami.
Boston is the nation's sixth largest television market. Close behind are Baltimore-Washington and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area.
Ironically, it was N.C. State chancellor Marye Anne Fox, a member of the Notre Dame board of trustees, who created an expansion stalemate when she voted against Boston College during the initial vote in June.
She supported Virginia Tech and Miami, giving the ACC a 7-2 acceptance vote. But her change on Boston College left the school one vote away from inclusion. North Carolina and Duke were staunchly against expansion in any form and voted against all three schools.
But when a revote on Boston College took place Sunday, the school presidents realized the need for a 12th school to complete the league and stage a potentially lucrative ACC championship game.
Duke and North Carolina supported Boston College with its high academic reputation and multi-sport success.
Here is how the ACC will look in 2004, barring any switch of division members.
DIVISION ONE -- Boston College, Maryland, Wake Forest, Florida State, North Carolina State, Clemson.
DIVISION TWO -- Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia.
Originally published Monday, October 13, 2003