Conferences schedule games as part of settlement
BOSTON -- The Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference are ready to stop fighting and start playing football again.
As part of a multimillion dollar settlement over the defection of three schools, the conferences have scheduled nine additional football games from 2008-12, including a visit by Miami to Pittsburgh. The settlement, first reported by The Hartford Courant, was also obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The newspaper reported that the total value of the settlement was $5 million. The agreement didn't specify how much each Big East school will receive, but a UConn bank statement obtained by the AP shows that $1 million was deposited on April 27, the day the settlement was finalized, by the law firm assigned to distribute the cash.
"The state of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut have made a tremendous investment in the university's football program," UConn president Philip E. Austin and athletic director Jeff Hathaway said in a statement. "Initiating this litigation was one part of a larger effort to protect that investment."
The settlement bars the parties from discussing the terms or even announcing an agreement unless required to do so. The Courant obtained the settlement through Connecticut's open records law; a copy was also obtained by the AP.
The ACC courted several Big East schools in 2003 in an attempt to expand to 12 teams and hold a lucrative conference championship. Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College were eventually invited to join the Greensboro, N.C.-based conference; commissioner John Swofford likened the acquisition of BC to "a good marriage."
But, as these things sometimes go, BC was still married to someone else.
Complaining that they spent millions of dollars to upgrade their programs based on the presumed loyalty of the defectors, four Big East schools that were left behind sued. In a flurry of lawsuits and countersuits, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal accused Miami and Boston College of conspiring with the ACC to weaken the Big East by luring away some of its biggest football powers.
"We pursued this case because the future of the Big East Conference was at risk _ the stakes huge for both state taxpayers and the university's good name," Blumenthal said.
The settlement includes the $1 million exit fee Boston College was required to pay the Big East under the league's constitution. Miami and Virginia Tech have already joined the ACC, and Boston College is now cleared to join on July 1.
But this divorce also includes visitation, a sign that the conferences are willing to put their bitterness aside when it's in their mutual financial interest.
The settlement specifies home-and-home series between Florida State and West Virginia, North Carolina and Rutgers, North Carolina State and Pittsburgh, and Virginia and Connecticut. Miami will receive an appearance fee of $225,000 for playing at Pittsburgh on Sept. 11, 2010.
"We are truly excited to have Boston College join the ranks of the Atlantic Coast Conference as Miami and Virginia Tech did a year ago," Swofford said in a statement. "We certainly look forward to a bright future as a 12-member league."
The presidents of Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West Virginia signed off on the agreement, which drops lawsuits between the conferences, their member schools and officers. Both commissioners also endorsed the deal.
The loss of BC, Miami and Virginia Tech prompted the Big East to look elsewhere to rebuild its ranks. This fall, the conference will add football members Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida to round out the eight-member conference.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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