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This move may not be so appealing after all

Boston College in the Big East . . . R.I.P. BC yesterday got what it has wanted for the last year when the invitation came from the Atlantic Coast Conference to become the 12th member of a proud and prestigious league.

The Eagles were all smiles as they announced their marriage with the ACC, after a courtship that turned sour last spring when the ACC backed out. But Ben and J. Lo still are together after their "the wedding is off" scene a few weeks ago, so why not these two?

Well, maybe the Eagles should have been more careful of what they asked for. As attractive as many elements of joining the ACC may be, particularly in the academic community, there are more than a few things on the athletic side that after first blush might not be quite so appealing.

Let's start with the football issue. BC coach Tom O'Brien was matter-of-fact yesterday when he talked about the possibility of the Eagles joining the ACC. "We'll play where they tell us, and against the teams they tell us to play," said O'Brien, who like everyone else at The Heights had made no secret of wanting to stay as close to Miami as possible.

But being close to Miami is not necessarily a good thing athletically. Miami is the No. 2 football team in the country this morning, Virginia Tech is No. 3. Between them, they have won nine of the 12 Big East football crowns (those two and Syracuse tied in 1996).

Both are headed to the ACC, which leaves the Big East and its BCS title slot for the next two years (and probably the next eight) without its two most powerful teams.

The Big East will readjust; and for BC, which probably will play one more season in the league, a new era has begun.

But why wouldn't BC want to compete in the Big East, where it has a legitimate chance to earn a BCS slot every year? Why join the ACC and have to fight for a bowl berth with 11 other teams, with almost all of them even or better than the Eagles?

Why go from being a big fish in a pond you have lived in all your life to a smaller fish in a pond where you are not even sure of the depth?

And that's not only in football. The other sports also pose new challenges.

Basketball will be a struggle, with Duke, North Carolina, and Maryland the primary ACC sharks. But with Big East expansion plans including Cincinnati, Marquette, and Louisville, and with the league having such strong members as Syracuse, UConn, and Pittsburgh already, that's a push at best.

And what about the non-revenue sports? BC will have to increase its budget significantly for the added travel and to become competitive in sports such as baseball, where teams such as Miami and Florida State are among the elite in the country.

And then there are the natural rivals O'Brien talks about wanting to play. Does BC-Maryland grab you? Or BC-Clemson?

Those are all issues that will have to be worked out, and Eagles athletic director Gene DeFilippo no doubt will do a fine job and put the best possible spin on it.

DeFilippo said yesterday he wants to do what is right for BC and for the Big East.

"We'll work this out so it's the best it can possibly be for everybody," said DeFilippo, who is well aware a lawsuit may be filed by the remaining Big East schools against the Eagles, just as a suit was filed against Miami.

But here's the bottom line: Whatever BC does, it always will be the Northern dinner guest at a party in a Southern household. Its voice will be tolerated but hardly listened to, and the decisions that will be made hardly will take BC's wishes into consideration.

The axis of power still will hover around Tobacco Road. And whether that is a good thing for BC has yet to be determined.

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