The Atlantic Coast Conference has officially accepted Pittsburgh and Syracuse as new members. A press release from Sunday morning said the invitations followed letters of application submitted from each school.
"The ACC is a strong united conference that is only going to get better with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University," Duke University President Richard Broadhead said in a prepared statement. "Both schools are committed to competing at the highest levels of academics and athletics. We welcome them as full partners in the ACC.
Broadhead is also the chair of the Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents. The press release said Pittsburgh and Syracuse were unanimously voted into the conference by the Council of Presidents.
ACC commissioner John Swofford said: "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. 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."
The ACC will now have 14 schools. Swofford said in a conference call with reporters on Sunday morning that a number of schools had reached out to the ACC about joining if the conference decided to expand. Swofford wouldn't say how many schools reached out, but did say it was double digits.
Swofford said during the conference call that the ACC formed a "444" committee -- made up of four university presidents, four athletic directors, and four faculty representatives -- over a year ago to analyze the college landscape. Swofford said the ACC -- and particularly the "444" committee -- has been quietly active while watching other conferences expand. The Pac-12 added Colorado and Utah, while the Big Ten added Nebraska. Those schools are now competing in their new conferences. The SEC is adding Texas A&M. TCU is due to join the Big East in 2012. Swofford said the "444" committee recommended to the Council of Presidents for the ACC to expand to 14 teams.
"While the foundation of it was laid starting a year and a half ago, up to this point our conclusions had continued to be to stay at 12," Swofford said. "This week is when that shifted to a belief that looking at the landscape and the circumstances across the country that there were obviously schools that add significantly to the Atlantic Coast Conference that were interested in joining us. The decision was made that now is a good time to go ahead and make that move to strengthen our conference."
Swofford said the ACC is happy with 14 schools, but left open the possibility of future expansion.
"We're very comfortable with this 14," Swofford said. "The only thing I would add to that is we are not philosophically opposed to 16. But for now we're very pleased with this 14. We think it's just an excellent group."
Syracuse was a founding member when the Big East was formed in 1979. Pittsburgh joined in 1982.
This isn't the first time the ACC has raided the Big East. The ACC added Boston College, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech in 2005. The moves prompted some nasty lawsuits.
It is hard to imagine the Big East surviving with the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Even with the addition of TCU, which could now be very shaky after Sunday's news, the Big East would have only seven football schools. The conference could add schools, but will those schools be on the same level as Pittsburgh and Syracuse?
The losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse also hurt the Big East's reputation as the country's top basketball conference. The Big East is in an odd position moving forward because there are basketball schools in the conference -- such as St. John's -- that do not play football. Notre Dame remains an independent in football, but its other teams compete in the Big East.
It now appears that all of the talk about four 16-team super conferences is moving closer to reality. With the addition of Texas A&M, the SEC will likely look to add another school to get to 14. The Pac-12 may also be ready to add more schools, depending on what happens to the Big 12. Oklahoma will play a big part in what happens going forward. It's also hard to imagine the Big Ten, even with the addition of Nebraska, sitting back and doing nothing as the landscape of college athletics changes yet again.