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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Thursday, June 12, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Realignment takes back seat for Thompson


Big East would provide big boost for Pirates
Football aristocracy blasted by hoops coach
Tulane president plots assault on BCS
FSU's attention about to be diverted?
Realignment takes back seat for Thompson
ACC expansion train slows; ECU on radar
Marriage counseling: That's the ticket!
Tulane goes on offensive on dual fronts
Banowsky defines C-USA's stance
C-USA chiefs wrap up eventful summit
BCS no barrier to Omaha for Bears
Swofford: ACC playing by the rules
Despite obstacles, UMass thinking big
Wellman: A few 12-team leagues the key
Cards' Pitino out on limb-o about C-USA

BCS or bust for East Carolina
Irish hover over ACC, Miami, Big East
SEC example proves money no cure-all
Opposition to ACC scheme gaining steam
ACC foray for 'crown jewel' advances
Big East's jilted 5 gang up for future
Herrion keeps eye on Miami's next move

'Sopranos' more benign than ACC syndicate
Meetings leave big questions hanging
Tranghese sounds like "beaten man"
Moral compass spins out of control
Big East boss lashes out
ECU well-situated for upheavals
The Empire Strikes Back?
Notre Dame ponders Big East role
TV markets based on bogus science
Brave new world for ECU?
Muse can't take wait-and-see approach
Execs move to spawn ACC juggernaut
Muse eyes saga from 'crow's nest'
Is ECU prepared to navigate storm?
Time for C-USA to revisit expansion issue

East Carolina may be playing football in the Big East Conference in the future but new Pirates football coach John Thompson and staff realize the task at hand is preparing to play the 2003 season in Conference USA.

"There's something different happening every day," Thompson said Tuesday of what has evolved into the ACC expansion soap opera. "There's no way to know what's going to happen. Everything is speculation on everybody's part."

The issue has united rivals Duke and North Carolina in opposition to the course mapped out by former Tar Heels athletics director and ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford. The political football in Virginia has the Cavaliers running interference in the best interests of rival Virginia Tech.

Whoever said politics makes strange bedfellows would have marveled at the liaisons that potential ACC expansion has created. Who will be on which side of the fence tomorrow will be interesting to track.

But that situation lacks the urgency that preseason planning and work does for Thompson.

"We're going to continue doing a great job of preparing for what's going to be happening in August," Thompson said.

While players are doing summer workouts and going to summer school, the staff has been formulating game plans.

"We've got our practice schedule ready through the Sunday after the West Virginia game," Thompson said. "There's so much to do in terms of organization and preparation and that's what we're working on right now.

"Going through this thing for the first time for everybody together is an important task — getting everybody on the same page. The better the preparation, the better the job you'll do and it takes away the anxiety. You just plan and prepare and whatever comes your way, you're ready to go."

The ECU offensive and defensive staffs already have contingent game plans for the first two opponents — at Cincinnati on Labor Day, Sept. 1, on one of the ESPN networks, and back home at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for West Virginia on Sept. 6. That was the focus last week.

"We've done more on Cincinnati but quite a bit on West Virginia — the way that game comes back on us (short week)," Thompson said. "We've even given Miami (Orange Bowl, Sept. 13) and Wake Forest (Groves Stadium, Sept.20) a little bit of a look. In August, you get ready for the season
— not just one game. We've spent a lot of time on Cincinnati and I'm sure they have on us."

One aspect of North Carolina’s offense that ECU won’t have to prepare for when the Tar Heels make their first visit to Greenville on Oct. 11 is running back Andre Williams, whose career is over for medical reasons. UNC announced on Wednesday that the former Northern Durham standout will be a student coach. Junior Jacque Lewis from Elizabeth City and senior Willie Parker from Clinton are listed one-two on the UNC depth chart at tailback.

Muse meets with C-USA board

Chancellor Dr. William V. Muse, ECU's representative on the Conference USA board of directors, met with that group on Sunday and Monday.

"We talked about some issues of conference realignment at some length," Muse confirmed on Tuesday after returning from Chicago. "I think everyone is in a similar position of waiting to see what happens between the ACC and the Big East. I think the assessment is that the lawsuit may slow down but it won't prevent movement.

"What the Big East may do after that is uncertain but everyone has different ideas about what might occur. Until there is an indication, there's really nothing any of us can do. Clearly, there's a concern at some schools and an expectation that Conference USA will be impacted."

The C-USA board met with NCAA president Myles Brand, whom Muse said had indicated he had little idea where the expansion issue was headed. Brand was asked by Virginia governor Mark Warner to mediate between the ACC and Big East but Brand declined, citing the autonomy of institutions to determine their conference alignment.

The C-USA board expressed its support for NCAA academic reform issues.

“There is an NCAA proposal to determine athletic eligibility on a semester by semester basis,” Muse said. “It would be based on passing six hours a semester and a grade point average. The schools would certify athletes semester by semester.”

Muse said there is also discussion about reviewing the manner in which graduation rates are measured. The ECU chancellor said the current rates don’t take into account transfers who leave institutions in good academic standing to pursue professional careers and the rates don’t include transfers who come in and graduate.

“All that’s counted is the freshmen who have come in and graduated at your school at the end of six years,” Muse said.

At the conclusion of the board meetings, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky made a statement regarding his league’s position regarding expansion, which amounted officially to a role as involved observers.

“For many weeks, Conference USA has been actively monitoring the circumstances involving the ACC and Big East and has been in open communication with both conferences regarding the potential for change and implications of that on others,” Banowsky said.

“As we concluded our meetings, we emerged with a commitment to address these issues in an orderly and thoughtful manner and in cooperation with the Big East and other affected conferences. It is important to remember that we are institutions of higher learning, not professional sports franchises, and we are rightfully held to a higher standard in our dealings with others.”

ECU has begun to be mentioned more frequently as a possible addition to the Big East, including comments by ESPN analyst Andy Katz that the Pirates could be extended an invitation by the Big East regardless of whether the ACC adds Miami, Boston College and Syracuse.

Katz and others have indicated that ECU would be preferable to Cincinnati and Memphis to the Big East. There are possibilities that the Big East could give Notre Dame an ultimatum to get involved in the league in football or lose the benefits of membership in other sports.

There are scenarios with the Big East losing three teams and adding seven, and other scenarios where the Big East stays intact and adds teams to reach 12 for a championship in football.

A spokesman for Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said the league wasn’t commenting on “What ifs” at this point.

Muse’s position is that he wants the Pirates to be able to compete at the highest level in college football. Through 2005, when the definition of the highest level may change, that would mean inclusion in the BCS.

Ideally, Muse would like for a 16-team playoff to be instituted when the current contract of the BCS is completed in 2005.

Young’s take

Dennis Young, the executive director of the Pirate Club, said he hears concerns from fans about how the domino effect of potential ACC expansion could affect ECU.

“Our fans are concerned,” he said. “A lot of schools are going to feel ripples. ... We’re going to keep our fingers crossed. I tell Pirate Club members we’ve done too much not to be a player. When all the dust settles, we will be a player.”

Pirates in summer leagues

Six East Carolina baseball players are involved in summer league play.

Trevor Lawhorn is playing for Staunton (Va.) in the Shenandoah Valley League. Brian Cavanaugh is playing for the Torrington Twisters in Connecticut in the New England Baseball League. Ryan Norwood is playing for Middletown (N.Y.) in the same league. Darryl Lawhorn is playing for Falmouth (Mass.) in the Cape Cod League. Adam Witter is playing for Stark County (Canton, Ohio area) in the Great Lakes League.

Closer to home, catcher Jake Smith is playing for Thomasville in the Coastal Plains League.

Herrion at Game Four

ECU men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion was in New Jersey on Wednesday night for Game Four of the NBA championship series. Herrion coached Malik Rose of the San Antonio Spurs on the collegiate level at Drexel.

The New Jersey Nets evened the best of seven series, 2-2.

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02/23/2007 12:40:43 AM

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