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Pitt coach Dixon: Joining ACC is right move

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By John Grupp
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011

Jamie Dixon isn't so opposed to leaving the Big East anymore.

The Pitt men's basketball coach, an outspoken critic of departing the league in recent years, said the move to the Atlantic Coast Conference had to be done.

"We realized it was time," Dixon said. "If not us, it was going to be somebody else. I think we can all agree on that."

Speaking with reporters Monday at the UPMC football practice facility on the South Side, Dixon said he supported the move.

"I've always felt that if we were to move conferences," he said, "that the ACC would be the conference."

Dixon talked to the Pitt players after workouts yesterday afternoon. Junior center Dante Taylor, who may not still be around when Pitt begins play in the ACC, had some initial trepidation but feels it's a good move.

"When I first heard about it, I wasn't too excited," Taylor said. "I grew up my whole life in the Big East. I love the Big East. But once I started to think about it, I saw how good it could be for the school and all of the programs — football, basketball and everything else. I looked at it from that standpoint.

"The ACC is the next top conference. And I would look forward to play against Duke and North Carolina, and take it as a positive."

Pitt and Syracuse accepted membership into the ACC on Sunday, expanding the league to 14 teams. Syracuse was a charter member of the Big East; Pitt joined in 1982.

Dixon, who in late 2009 said "I can't see how moving ... would be a good thing for anybody," believes the changing landscape of college athletics forced Pitt to make a proactive move, even if it meant departing a league he once called "the best conference in college basketball history."

"We did everything we could to make the Big East better for a number of years," he said. "But at that point, the decision had to be made."

Dixon, who was recruiting in New Zealand over the weekend, said he called some recruits yesterday to discuss the Panthers' new conference.

"I think the momentum is going to continue with our program," Dixon said. "That's upon us. It's not what conference we're in. It's up to us."

Dixon, who lobbied to help TCU, his alma mater, join the Big East last winter, also spoke with Horned Frogs athletic director Chris Del Conte late Sunday night.

"They are in a better position now than they were last year," Dixon said. "They understand that and know that. They knew what the conference's situation was when they signed up for it, as well."

Dixon didn't feel it would be appropriate to comment on the possibility of Connecticut and Rutgers joining the ACC. But earlier, when speaking of rivalries, he hinted that more Big East schools could be following Pitt and Syracuse.

"We're going to have a lot of Big East schools that are going to be with us in the ACC," he said. "In some ways, it's almost going to be a north former Big East ... when we get to that point."

Dixon said the move won't affect Pitt's recruiting philosophy. As for the different styles of the two conferences — the Big East is a physical, let-them-play league — the two-time national Coach of the Year said the Panthers will adapt.

"We are recruiting the same kids," he said. "We are recruiting against the same schools. I don't see it being too much of a change for us in the recruiting world. We're going to find the player."

Dixon is confident the Big East will survive, including the small, Catholic basketball-only schools such as St. John's, Georgetown and Marquette.

"There are too many good basketball teams, too many good programs," Dixon said. "They are going to do fine. They are going to survive."



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