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Tuesday, February 24, 2004
ACC thwarts Big East again

Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference defeated the Big East in court for the third time in four months.

A Connecticut judge has dismissed all claims against the ACC, its commissioner and officers in a lawsuit filed by four Big East schools over the ACC's expansion. A lawyer for the Big East schools said there will be an appeal.

The expansion sparked a major makeover of several conferences as many schools forged new affiliations.

"This is the outcome we expected and certainly we are pleased with this ruling," ACC assistant commissioner Brian Morrison said in a statement. "With the numerous changes in conference affiliations in recent months it is time for everyone to move forward in a collegial way."

The decision was made public Tuesday, a day after Judge Samuel Sferrazza dismissed the lawsuit against ACC commissioner John Swofford and three league officers. The judge determined neither the conference nor the ACC officers had sufficient ties in Connecticut to be sued in the state.

Swofford's only ties, the judge determined, was as a negotiator with Bristol-based ESPN for ACC television contracts.

"There is no evidence that these contracts were negotiated or signed in Connecticut," the judge wrote.

Sferrazza ruled two weeks ago that the ACC had no legal standing to be sued in Connecticut.

On Monday, all claims were dismissed against Swofford, ACC president Carolyn Callahan, vice president Donn Ward and treasurer Cecil Huey.

The Big East schools' lawsuit against Boston College, its athletic director and Miami can move forward.

Boston College, Miami, and Virginia Tech, have accepted invitations to join the ACC. Miami and Virginia Tech join this year; Boston College comes aboard next year.

The Big East plaintiff schools -- Connecticut, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and West Virginia -- allege that the ACC conspired with Miami and Boston College to weaken the Big East by luring away some of its biggest football powers.

The plaintiffs say they spent millions of dollars to upgrade their football programs based on the presumed loyalties of the departing schools. The schools originally sued in June 2003 and refiled in October to add Swofford and the officers as defendants immediately after Sferrazza dismissed claims against the ACC.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the plaintiffs will appeal Sferrazza's ruling.

"Our lawsuit is alive and well to vindicate our claims against Boston College and the University of Miami," Blumenthal said.

The Big East has rebuilt it ranks with Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul. The new members will begin competing in the 2005-06 academic year.

The expanded ACC has 12 schools, enough members required by the NCAA to stage a lucrative league championship football game in the future.