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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, June 23, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

ECU poised to ride out ACC-Big East storm safely


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..?

The expansion discussions among Atlantic Coast Conference presidents and chancellors have been continuing with sources indicating there may be a resolution before the end of the month. Another discussion is planned for Tuesday.

Apparently, the group outlined its options during a conference call on Saturday morning. Adding Miami, Syracuse and Boston College for 12 teams remains a possibility, although Duke, North Carolina and Virginia appear to make it unlikely that course would get the needed seven votes for approval from the current membership of nine.

The ACC could add Miami, Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech to possibly get Virginia’s vote and enable expansion. UNC has indicated that it might support the lone addition of Miami but 10 teams would be two short of the requisite number for a football championship game and its significant revenue.

The league could also do nothing. The anticipated deadline for action has been June 30 to avoid an increase in the exit fee from the Big East if the expansion were to occur for the 2004-05 scholastic year. With one year’s notice the departure fee from the Big East is $1 million. For less than one year’s notice, the fee is $2 million.

If expansion were to take place for the 2005-06 school year, then the affected Big East members would have until June 30, 2004 to give notice and avoid the doubling of the fee.

Under the plan to add only Miami, Louisville would be a likely candidate to replace the Hurricanes if the Big East only wanted one program to fill that vacancy.

Exit fees from C-USA depend on the length of time that notice is given. For one calendar year notice the fee is $500,000. The fee drops $100,000 in C-USA for each additional year that notice is provided — $400,000 for two years notice, $300,000 with three years notice, $200,000 with four years notice and $100,000 with five years notice.

C-USA associate commissioner Dennis Helsel said there would be no exit fee with six years notice.

ECU could be a factor in the Big East’s own eventual expansion plans if several of its current teams move to the ACC or if the Big East were to increase to 12 football-playing Division I-A members to allow its own revenue-producing football championship game.

The scenarios also include Conference USA absorbing remnants from the Big East if that league should be decimated by the ACC’s actions. Helsel said C-USA doesn’t have a set fee for new members. Such a fee would be determined at the discretion of the board of directors and C-USA officials depending on what the prospective members would bring to the table in C-USA.

“If Miami came in the entry fee would be significantly less than Georgia Southern because our television contract might jump up and there would be a lot of potential for revenue,” said Helsel, speaking hypothetically. “The same thing if Syracuse came in as opposed to Akron.
The entry fee was left flexible so the presidents (and chancellors) could decide.”

The stated objective of ECU's chancellor, Dr. William V. Muse, is to position the Pirates in an all-sports league that would allow the Pirates to compete on the highest level of Division I-A football. Under the present format that would mean a situation where ECU would be in a conference whose champion was guaranteed a bowl championship series berth.

The current BCS contract expires after the 2005 season and several options are available at that point. The postseason situation could revert to the previous bowl structure without a game between the teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS standings. An extension of the present BCS system is also a possibility although that would likely be the subject of protest and possible legal action from the group that currently lacks direct access to the BCS.

One or more bowls could be added to the current BCS lineup and that might allow a matchup for leagues such as C-USA, which are currently excluded unless one of their teams is in the top six in the BCS standings.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, bowls that are interested in stepping up to BCS status include the Citrus (Orlando), Gator (Jacksonville, Fla.), Peach (Atlanta), Cotton (Dallas), Alamo (San Antonio) and Holiday (San Diego).

A playoff system is also a possibility when the current BCS agreement expires.

Moving to the Big East doesn’t make sense for the Pirates if the Big East is not going to retain something comparable to its current BCS status. ECU would probably be better off remaining in C-USA if that league were to achieve some type of equitable inclusion in the postseason football picture.

In an ideal situation, ECU could shift to the ACC or the SEC. The Pirates make sense for the ACC from a regional rivalry standpoint — much more so than the recommendation of the Denver consulting firm that proposed bringing in Boston College and Syracuse.

Muse has connections to the SEC as former president of the league when he was president at Auburn. ECU has always had an SEC orientation in terms of its emphasis on football. New coach John Thompson has brought the influence of his SEC background to the Pirates as a former defensive coordinator at Florida and Arkansas. There has been speculation that the SEC might be interested in the Pirates should the ACC indicate it will go to 14 teams.

The worst case scenario of ECU reverting to independent status doesn’t appear likely. C-USA looks solid for the moment in the shifting sand of potential expansion. The Pirates could even step up to a major conference with the help of some political advocacy in regards to the ACC or get the attention of the SEC through present connections.

It also appears that the status quo for ECU in C-USA could improve with potential changes in the postseason football structure.

Change on the way for coach's radio and TV programs

The East Carolina football coach’s show will take a new approach this season as indicated by its new name, Pirate Magazine with John Thompson and Jeff Charles.

“It will have a magazine format,” said Charles, the voice of the Pirates for the past 15 years and ECU’s director of electronic media. “It will look different. We’re going to freshen it up.”

Thompson, who opened spring practice to the public and reinstated the spring game, will continue to share the football program with Pirate fans through TV.

“John is just going to give (Pirate Magazine) full access to the locker room and practice,” Charles said. “He wants to show people the inner workings of the program. I’m excited about working with him. He’s really brought a new enthusiasm to the program.”

There will be changes in the coach’s call-in radio show as well. Former coach Steve Logan did his radio show on Sunday nights and the format evolved into a review of the game on the preceding day with some preliminary thoughts about the upcoming game. Thompson’s call-in program will originate from Logan’s Roadhouse on Greenville Boulevard at 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

“Every coach is different,” Charles said. “John has different ideas. Steve liked to get the players in on Sunday and get the kinks out with a light workout. John wants to take Sundays off. We had more radio stations who were able to clear us for Sunday nights and that was a factor.

“John felt Thursday would be a good night for his show. He’ll be winding down from practice. The game plan will be in the fold so Thursday at 7 p.m. is when he’s going to do it. I know the Pirate Club people will get involved on Thursday nights and make it a festive-type thing.”

You might want to mark July 15 on your calendar as a potentially festive occasion as well. Coach Thompson and Charles will be making an appearance at Playmakers on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, across from Meredith College. WRBZ-850, “the Buzz,” will be broadcasting live from the sports bar from 6 to 8 p.m. The Triangle station will again be a member of the Pirate radio network.

Thompson’s weekly news conference during the season will be conducted on Tuesdays. In the Logan era, the media luncheons were held on Mondays.

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02/23/2007 12:40:45 AM

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