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College Sports in the Carolinas


View from the East
Thursday, June 19, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Where are you, Governor Easley..?


Miami Makes the Leap — Now What?
Hurricanes blow over nervous landscape
ACC, Big East on edge about Miami
Leagues caught in eye of the Hurricanes
Media rises to task in ACC-Big East feud

VPI in; Miami ponders; ECU sees opening
ECU chancellor keen on developments
Miami calls timeout to huddle with Big East
BE plans "up front" and "proper" expansion
ACC door cracked open for ECU...?
Mountain West preparing to pounce
Chalk one up for the non-BCS schools
Big East-ACC peace plan in the works?
ECU poised to ride out ACC-Big East storm
ACC deliberations at crossroads
Big Top needed for this circus
Where are you, Governor Easley..?

Good luck to Governor Mark Warner of Virginia if he decides to run for re-election. In looking after Virginia Tech, he may have alienated the true feelings of the constituency at the University of Virginia.

Good thing for the Atlantic Coast Conference that William & Mary and Richmond don’t play Division I-A football or the once-affluent and hell-bent-for-expanding league might have even more mouths to feed.

The Atlanta Journal-
that a surprising option
not involving Virginia
Tech is also under
review...  More...

At least the ACC expansion wasn’t ultimately about money. Associated Press sources reported Wednesday night that the league would move to add Miami, Syracuse, Boston College — and, surprise, Virginia Tech — to get a swing vote from Virginia president John Chasteen in favor of expansion.

The greed that dominated the early stages of the far-ranging soap opera was replaced by a grasp for pride, although to the objective public it might look more like some sort of ridiculous comic relief. That sudden drone in the background may have been the Big East Conference heading into a nosedive.

It turned out ultimately to be a face-saving move by the ACC, which apparently determined that dividing the financial pie 13 ways is more appealing than splitting it nine ways with pie on your face — the dire consequence from a failed attempt at super conference status.

There also were reports that the league could add Connecticut for an even 14 members. If those reports are accurate, they could then add Larry and Curley and call it the 16 Stooges.

A school of thought obviously emerged that the best conference would have teams in desirable television markets but that’s not what really makes leagues great. The Southeastern Conference isn’t marketable because it commands the television markets of Starkville, Miss., Auburn, Ala., or Knoxville, Tenn.

The Big 12 won’t have a revenue pool approaching $85 million next year because it went out and attracted the TV markets of Waco and Lubbock, Texas, at its last expansion.

The SEC and the Big 12 are superb, financially opulent examples of super conference success stories and are supposedly the models for the ACC’s expansion plan. But those two leagues are winners at the bank because of their regional rivalries, a point that has been missed in the ACC's poorly-executed strategy.

Good luck getting a ticket on any given football Saturday for the in-state or border SEC rivalries — Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Georgia or ’Bama-Tennessee, just the start of that list of great matchups.

Here’s what’s wrong with the ACC’s original idea. Miami is closer to Havana, Cuba, than its closest potential ACC opponent, which is Florida State. Syracuse and Boston College also present major obstacles in terms of generating any sense of regional emotion in regard to the ACC’s traditional membership.

Putting television first is putting the cart before the horse. You start by building something fans will watch instead of assembling something you hope television will buy.

Full stadiums with bragging rights on the line have long been a formula for television interest. I’m still mystified as to who’s going to show up to watch Boston College against anybody in the current ACC. Who for that matter wants to see their team mauled by Miami? No atmosphere there. Fans would be gone by halftime.

If the ACC wanted to go to 12 teams to enable a football championship and play before capacity crowds that create the kind of electric atmosphere that television craves, then it should have added East Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

That’s ECU, Virginia Tech and West Virginia instead of Miami, Syracuse and Boston College. Such a move would have nullified the Big East lawsuit and the process could have been done in such a manner as to leave no grounds for future legal action.

Let Casteen find political grounds to oppose that. Let the folks at North Carolina question those geographic parameters.

Let Duke president Nan Keohane draw up the divisions if that’s her hang-up.

ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford could be assured that with the numerous additional rivalries inherent in such an alignment that his television revenue would increase. Fans in the stands translate into viewers in the living room. I’ve seen enough ECU-State games and Carolina-ECU games to know it would work.

Virginia-West Virginia made the first Continental Tire Bowl a go.

Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte would still be a great place to play the multi-million dollar league championship game.

I know Boston College is in a big television market but I also know Boston is a pro sports town.

Heck, Rutgers is in the New York market but that has hardly translated into anything approaching desirable status for the Scarlet Knights.

There are ACC and ECU people who tell me the Pirates will never be invited into the ACC. Too bad. Excluding ECU is a losing proposition for both entities.

Someone did the math with Miami, Syracuse and Boston College and figured that it might not work. Unfortunately, that school of thought appears to be in the minority.

Maybe if North Carolina governor Mike Easley had something to do besides wreck race cars, purge a crooked state cabinet or pump the red ink out of the lungs of the state budget, he could have made a case for the Pirates as his Commonwealth counterpart did for the Hokies.

Bringing ECU into the ACC would remove that famous Pirate “chip” because ECU would finally be competing as an equal. That’s probably a repugnant prospect to ACC traditionalists, but a new Big Five would be bigger in North Carolina than the old Big Four.

People say ECU is behind in basketball but I think they already outdraw Florida State. And how many ACC schools beat a Final Four team last season as the Pirates did in knocking off Marquette?

This is the 21st century, ACC. Think outside the box. Step up to the plate. Overcome the fear factor. Beef up the security and print the tickets, baby. You might find out ECU fans are decent people for the most part — contrary to what your daddy might have told you. There might be some similar revelations regarding the Hokies and Mountaineers vis-a-vis Virginia.

Hey, ACC, if you’re going to go full throttle into college sports for the financial rewards, then you might as well do it right. Don’t let the New York TV suits sell you a bill of goods. You might lose your shirts with Miami, Syracuse and Boston College. Put together a product with bigger grassroots fan appeal and TV will buy their way in for a 12:07 p.m. kickoff.

ECU, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. That’s the answer. Or was.

Now the question may be how quickly the ACC can get a visitation committee to Blacksburg.

C-USA future has potential, if...

Where does this leave East Carolina? Still in Conference USA probably, since the Big East may be fatally gutted as a football league. That may end up favorably for the Pirates. C-USA may have the best chance to salvage the remainder of the football-playing Big East by adding Pitt and West Virginia. That could save ECU an exit fee from C-USA and an entrance fee to the Big East had the dominos fallen differently in the ACC.

Cut out the football dead wood in C-USA, let its basketball schools merge with the remainder of the Big East and you have a relatively compact C-USA, strengthened for football and possibly suited to be more of a factor when the current bowl championship series contract expires after 2005.

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02/23/2007 12:40:44 AM

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