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Nuggets of Gold
Saturday, February 23, 2008
By Adam Gold
Adam Gold is program director of the Triangle's "850 the Buzz" and host of "The G-spot with Adam Gold" mornings from 6-10 a.m.


Big East football keeping it cozy

Eight-team league's power brokers unmoved by scheduling dilemma

By Adam Gold
All rights reserved.

Depending on the time of the year, the Big East Conference is either way too big or way too small.

In the winter, the 16-team basketball league prevents any scheduling equity. Last year, due to a 16-game league schedule that tried to maintain several home and road matchups between historical rivals, there were conference teams that never played each other.

This season, they conference extended the league schedule to 18 games and made sure that everyone played each team at least once. The problem is that no two schedules are alike, and in many cases they’re dramatically different, making it extremely difficult for the NCAA selection committee to judge which teams are the strongest and most deserving of a bid.

Meanwhile, in the fall, with just eight football-playing members, half the league plays three home games and four on the road while the other half gets the extra game on their own fields.

That doesn’t sound fair to me and it didn’t to Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall either. Edsall thinks the Big East should at least add one more school that would be a football-only member so the home-away scheduling process could balance out.

Last year, the Huskies had four of their Big East games at home. In 2008, the world turns upside down for UConn as it welcomes just Cincinnati, West Virginia and Pittsburgh to East Hartford, while playing Syracuse, South Florida, Rutgers and Louisville on the road.

Wouldn’t a ninth team make things perfect?

Wouldn’t some school, say one from a place like Greenville, North Carolina, with a a rabid fan base, a great home crowd atmosphere and a history of playing very competitive football round out the league nicely?

Not according to Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese. According to Tranghese, league boss since conference founder Dave Gavitt’s retirement in 1990, there is just no league-wide support to add members in any capacity.

For Terry Holland and the East Carolina faithful, that’s just not good news for a football program that would like to compete in one time zone.

We’ve been down this road before. It would be great to convince the Big East that a ninth football school, one that didn’t need to also compete in basketball, was the best of both worlds for that conference.

Just for scheduling purposes, it’s too difficult to find five non-conference games every year for football. The additional school would allow for the 4-by-4 home-away league slate making it fair for everyone, every year.

It would be so easy. Big East membership in football, then get on bended knee and beg the Colonial Athletic Association to allow the Pirates back into a league that would allow them to be in closer proximity to their rivals in basketball and the non-revenue sports. Think of the money the athletic department would save in travel alone? There’s a big difference between trips to Boston or Atlanta — the longest trips North and South in the CAA — and multiple trips to Texas, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana or Mississippi — the treks involved with being in Conference USA.

I know we’re currently paying more than $100 a barrel for crude oil, but regardless of the price per gallon of 93 octane, with many trips being convenient bus rides, it’s better than flying back and forth to El Paso every year.

But isn’t it a bit presumptuous to say that leaving Conference USA would make it easier to compete in men’s basketball?
The entire current membership of Conference USA other than Memphis has combined for just one NCAA bid in the last two years while the Colonial has grabbed five bids over that span.

So, to say that ECU could its their chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament by skipping back to the CAA would be to hope that the Pirates would be battle-hardened by the increased quality of the conference.

The truth is that there are no excuses for the plight of East Carolina basketball. With just 22 wins in its last 100 games against Division I opposition, the conference hasn’t yet been created that would allow the Pirates any measurable success.

If you can win in Spokane, Washington or Dayton, Ohio, or — gasp — Greenville, South Carolina, there’s just no reason why you can’t create something credible down east. Is Mack McCarthy the right guy to build the program or is he just the current caretaker until Mr. Holland figures out his next move?

While the news from Big East HQ might not have been received favorably by Holland and company, the fact remains that the only impact of expanding Big East football would be felt at Dowdy-Ficklen. East Carolina basketball would not necessarily be better-served — competitively speaking, anyway — by stepping back to the good old days of the CAA.


02/28/2008 12:52:21 AM

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