The other side
Virginia Tech pulls out of ACC suit, but Big East moves onPosted: Wednesday June 25, 2003 6:33 PM
Updated: Thursday June 26, 2003 1:03 PM
VERNON, Conn. (AP) -- Big East schools on Thursday officially dropped Boston College from the list of defendants in a lawsuit over Atlantic Coast Conference expansion plans, and a judge said he would rule shortly on a request to speed up the case.
The hearing before Superior Court Judge Samuel J. Sferrazza followed a day of changes in dispute over the ACC's efforts to lure away some of the Big East's members. Virginia Tech, having received a bid to join the ACC, left the list of plaintiffs. BC and Syracuse had been expected to get invitations to change conferences, along with Miami. But the ACC changed course Wednesday and issued invitations to the Hokies and Miami instead.
Syracuse was never a defendant in the case, which alleges that the ACC and Miami misled the Big East schools about their plans.
Sferrazza said he would rule Thursday or Friday on Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's request to accelerate the schedule for gathering evidence.
Blumenthal said the shifting legal lineup might play to the advantage of the Big East.
"Boston College may be a very productive source of evidence," he said. "We're hoping their cooperation will shed light on some of the secret, back-room discussions in this continuing conspiracy."
Sferrazza rejected an attempt to move the lawsuit out of Tolland County, which is home to the University of Connecticut. The ACC had argued that jurors would be biased in favor of UConn.
Steve Errante, the New Haven attorney representing the ACC, said he had no objections to moving the case along.
"The only problem with being here is when we have to do jury selection, which is a couple years away, if it ever gets that far," he said.
The lawsuit contends the plaintiff schools -- UConn, Rutgers, West Virginia and Pittsburgh -- have spent millions on their football programs based on presumed loyalty from the other schools.
After learning that the ACC was pursuing only Virginia Tech and Miami, Tech's governing board unanimously authorized president Charles M. Steger to negotiate with the ACC.
The school filed papers in Connecticut removing it from the lawsuit against the ACC late Wednesday afternoon, said Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.
Kilgore said the lawsuit slowed down the process long enough to give ACC officials more time to evaluate Virginia Tech. On Wednesday, conference officials visited the Blacksburg, Va., school and extended an invitation.
"The reason Tech wanted to sue from the beginning was to remain
in a strong and viable conference," Kilgore said. "Virginia Tech
has long wanted to be part of the Atlantic Coast Conference. And
that's becoming a reality now."