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Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Four programs stuck with three powers

Associated Press

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference came up with a football schedule Wednesday that forces four schools to play all three of the conference's powers in each of the next two seasons.

The additions of Miami and Virginia Tech gives the ACC three of the top programs in the nation. Miami is No. 2, Virginia Tech is No. 4 and current ACC member Florida State is fifth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and The Associated Press media poll.

The schedule, approved in meetings that included athletic directors, senior women's administrators and faculty representatives, maintains eight conference games against the same eight schools in the next two years.

Under the plan, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Virginia and North Carolina will play all three marquee programs. Miami will play Virginia Tech and Florida State, while the Hokies and Seminoles will not meet. The other four teams will play two of the powerhouses home-and-home.

The schedule announced by ACC commissioner John Swofford is flexible enough to work in one division or two, if the NCAA allows the conference to stage a championship game despite not having the mandatory 12 teams.

"It can work for us over the next two years in either scenario," Swofford said. The only way the league would split into two divisions is if the opportunity to hold a championship becomes reality, he said.

The decision to have a championship, if it becomes available, will be made at the ACC meeting in Greensboro, N.C., in December, Swofford said.

If needed, one division would include Maryland, Clemson, North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Florida State, and the other will include Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Duke.

The conference did not discuss adding a 12th team during its two-day meetings, and Swofford declined to discuss further expansion afterward.

"Right now we're dealing with what's real, and what's real is that we're an 11-team league," he said. "I'm not here to talk about a 12th."

The formula maintains the home and away rotation in place now and will be evaluated for fairness and balance after two years, Swofford said.

Most of the athletic directors left when Swofford went to meet with reporters, but North Carolina's Dick Baddour said he was satisfied.

"We feel great about the meeting," he said. "We'll be anxious to hear everyone's reaction to the schedule. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage, the chairman of the league's ADs, also was pleased with all that was accomplished here.

"I like what we have right now. Who knows what our conference will look like in a year, two years and beyond, but I think we've done very well with what we have and we'll make it work," Littlepage said.

The meetings marked the first time that officials from Virginia Tech and Miami have participated since they agreed to join the ACC in June. The schools do not become voting partners until July 1, 2004, but their delegations were praised, along with the others, for working together.

"The tone of this meeting was superb," Swofford said. "The sense of cooperation was outstanding. A lot of progress was made of a substantive nature in terms of scheduling decisions with an 11-team league."

The league also announced that its men's basketball teams will play a 16-game conference schedule in 2004 and 2005, and its women's teams will play 14-game conference schedules, meeting each team at least once.

All 11 league teams will play in the conference basketball tournaments, with the top five schools earning a first-round bye.

For the men, the schedule will include annual home-and-home series against two "primary partner" schools, home-and-home series against four other schools and single games against the league's other four schools.

The following year, men's teams will play home-and-home series against the four teams they played once the previous year, home-and-home series against their partner schools and single games against the other four.

The women will play home-and-home series against four primary partner schools and single games against the other six teams in both seasons.

The primary partners are not necessarily the same for the men's and women's teams, but are based on rivalries that have developed over time.