Syracuse and Pittsburgh to join ACC

The Atlantic Coast Conference is expanding again and has done so once more at the expense of the Big East, as Syracuse and Pittsburgh were formally accepted as new members on Sunday morning.

The ACC's Council of Presidents voted unanimously to invite both universities after receiving letters of application.

"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 University 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."

Syracuse and Pittsburgh were long-tenured members of the Big East, which first formed as a men's basketball league in 1979. Syracuse was an original member and Pittsburgh joined in 1982. Football began as a conference sport only in 1991.

The ACC will now feature 14 teams, for the moment, and will have five former Big East schools, as Miami-Florida, Virginia Tech and Boston College all previously left the Big East for the ACC.

There is a probability of future expansion, likely to 16 teams, as the recent wave of conference realignment has increasingly suggested that there will eventually be four 16-team super conferences. The Big Ten, the SEC and the Pac-12 are likely to be the other major players once the dust completely settles.

"First of all, we are very comfortable with this 14," Swofford added during a conference all on Sunday. "The only thing I would add to that is that we are not philosophically opposed to 16. But for now we are very pleased with this 14. We think it is just an excellent group."

With the additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, the ACC also now has a broader national market and covers most of the Eastern Seaboard.

"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," said Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford.

The change will also make the ACC a stronger men's basketball conference while weakening the Big East in that aspect. However, the continually changing landscape in conference alignment, most prominently in the money-making sport of football, sparked this move.

"Overall, for Syracuse, this opportunity provides long-term conference stability in what is an uncertain, evolving, and rapidly shifting national landscape," said Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor.

The Big East currently comprises 16 members, including Syracuse and Pittsburgh, but only eight play in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The league is considered the weakest of the six automatic qualifiers for the lucrative BCS bowl package and will need to add quality members in an effort to keep that status.

"Although I was obviously very disappointed to learn the news about the ACC's being in discussions about membership with the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University, I continue to believe the BIG EAST Conference is well positioned for the future and that the events of the past 24 hours will unify our membership," said Big East commissioner John Marinatto in a statement when the news was first reported on Saturday. "We have been working steadily to solidify and strengthen the Big East Conference and position us for our upcoming TV negotiations and I am confident that we will again emerge from this situation and remain strong."

TCU is already set to join the Big East next year, while Baylor and Iowa State have reportedly made overtures to the Big East if the Big 12 dissolves. The Big 12 lost Nebraska and Colorado for this academic year and Texas A&M is also on its way out, while Oklahoma and other league members have been considering a jump to other conferences.

The SEC has already accepted Texas A&M for membership, although the Aggies must still resolve internal issues with some its current Big 12 members. Once that move becomes official, the SEC will likely expand further. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are also considering further expansion after already doing so for the 2011-12 academic year.