RICHMOND, Va. -- Gov. Mark R. Warner said Thursday he is determined that Virginia Tech athletic teams be included in an expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference and that he is working with two neighboring state governors on the issue.
Warner said he is in touch with North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich regarding his goal of ensuring that Virginia Tech is part of a three-team expansion of the ACC, or that the expansion is blocked.
The nine-school league voted 7-2 on Tuesday to expand and realign itself by 2005 into a 12-team superconference.
All of the expansion targets have football or basketball programs that are among the nation's most successful and storied, and all are members of the Big East Conference. ACC bids are assured for Miami and Syracuse with Boston College and Virginia Tech vying for the third spot.
The loss of any three of those teams would effectively gut the Big East, whose teams this year won the national basketball title (Syracuse) and played for the football championship (Miami was upset by Ohio State). Miami won the 2001 football title.
"I believe very strongly that any realignment of the Big East or the ACC needs to include Virginia Tech in a major conference," Warner told a small group of reporters outside the Executive Mansion.
"If the ACC chooses to expand - particularly if they choose to expand (by) three members - it should include Virginia Tech. I'm doing all I can to make that happen," he said.
Warner asked John Casteen, the president of ACC member Virginia, to support Virginia Tech's admission to the conference. Virginia voted Tuesday in favor of ACC expansion with the caveat that the Hokies be one of the expansion teams.
Virginia's vote is important because two schools - North Carolina and Duke - opposed expansion. If those two nay votes hold, Virginia could join with them for the three votes necessary to veto any invitations.
Warner said he had spoken to Easley on Tuesday and Wednesday. North Carolina is home to four ACC teams - state-supported UNC and North Carolina State University and the private Duke and Wake Forest.
Maryland is the ACC's northernmost member.
"The North Carolina schools are one of the reasons why we still have the potential to in effect stop an expansion that wouldn't include Virginia Tech," Warner said.
"My sense is that from conversations that I have had with Governors Ehrlich and Easley, a lot of this is not being driven by their schools or their reluctance to include Virginia Tech, it's more being driven Miami's insistence to include Syracuse and BC," Warner said.
When asked whether Ehrlich and Easley had given him any assurance that their states' universities would insist on including a second Virginia team in the ACC, Warner said both governors "understand that Virginia Tech shouldn't be left out of any major conference realignment."