TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents unanimously voted to accept Pittsburgh and Syracuse as new members Sunday, the league announced. The invitation followed the submission of letters of application from both universities.
“The ACC is a strong united conference that is only going to get better with the addition of the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University,” said Duke President Richard Broadhead, chair of the ACC Council of Presidents. “Both schools are committed to competing at the highest level of academics and athletics. We welcome them as full partners in the ACC.”
On Saturday morning, CBSSports.com first reported that Pitt and Syracuse had submitted letters of application to the ACC. Commissioner John Swofford said the league would respect the Big East's withdrawal by-laws, which requires 27 months notice. However, it's doubtful the Big East would want Pitt and Syracuse to remain in the league over that period because it would seek to immediately add additional members to survive.
“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,” Swofford said. “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.”
It also could serve as a devastating blow to the Big East Conference. Syracuse was a founding member and Pittsburgh has been a member since 1982. The Big East was stunned by the news and didn't learn that either school had submitted a letter of application to the ACC until Saturday.
“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,” Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said. “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.”
Pittsburgh desire to leave the Big East was "common knowledge," several Big East sources told CBSSports.com. Nordenberg has served as chairman of the Big East's executive committee of presidents and "put the brakes" on the Big East accepting a $1.3 million media rights deal from ESPN in the spring.
“This is a very significant day for all of our student-athletes, coaches and staff at the University of Pittsburgh,” Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. “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."
The addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will speed up the race to 16-team superconferences. So what will happen next? Here's one viewpoint on what lies ahead for the ACC and Big East along with the other four automatic qualifying BCS leagues and Notre Dame.
"We are very excited to be joining the ACC," Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for Syracuse, and with its outstanding academic quality and athletic excellence, the ACC is a perfect fit for us. The ACC is home to excellent national research universities with very strong academic quality, and is a group that Syracuse will contribute to significantly and benefit from considerably.
"As a comprehensive, all-sports conference, the ACC provides Syracuse tremendous opportunities for quality competition and growth in all sports, while also renewing some of our historic rivalries. This move will also bolster our continued efforts to look outward, engage, and extend Syracuse’s reach to key areas of the country, including the southeast, as we grow and expand our national connections to alumni, partners and the students of the future. We are pleased that Syracuse adds a New York City dimension to the ACC, a region in which we have built strong identity and affinity, and we look forward to bringing ACC games to the Big Apple. Overall, for Syracuse, this opportunity provides long-term conference stability in what is an uncertain, evolving, and rapidly shifting national landscape."
The league did not announce when Syracuse and Pittsburgh would join the conference. The Big East requires 27 months notice to leave the conference, although it's doubtful that would be enforced, sources said, since the Big East would want to replace both schools as quickly as possible. Big East schools must pay $5 million to leave. Last week, the ACC unanimously increased its withdrawal fee to $20 million, in a move of solidarity.
"Today is a day that we will remember for years to come," Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said. "We are truly excited that academically and athletically we will be a member of the ACC, one of the nation's premier collegiate athletic conferences. As New York's College Team, we plan to compete at the highest level across all of our sports and help to enhance this great conference."
Gross is absolutely right: today is the day that the entire college football conference landscape will remember as the day it changed forever.