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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, June 26, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Will state's politicos stand up for East Carolina?


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..?

If East Carolina ever had a window of opportunity for inclusion in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the clock started ticking on Tuesday night.

Keep in mind that 11 teams was never the desired number for ACC expansion. It was the result of Virginia holding the rest of the league hostage because of in-state political pressure to look after Virginia Tech.

Eleven apparently became preferable to 13, which is why Syracuse and Boston College didn’t make the cut after Tuesday night’s lengthy conference call. Miami was the main objective all along. The Hurricanes are a football power, even though they don’t draw particularly well.

The magic number is still 12. That would allow a football championship game. So, who will be the addition that gets the ACC to its intended membership quota if Miami decides to come aboard?

Speculation has it that the program ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford wants is Notre Dame but the Fighting Irish aren’t likely to forfeit their lucrative status as a national independent in football. So mark them off the list.

South Carolina has been mentioned but there is still some time-honored bitterness over South Carolina’s exit from the ACC in the 1970s. And, besides, the SEC is a good situation for the Gamecocks.

Start thinking about scenarios that could get the Pirates in the same back door that the Hokies will apparently slip through. No one could discount ECU based on television market or men’s basketball now that Virginia Tech is apparently in the fold.

It wouldn’t take seven schools necessarily in favor of getting the Pirates in. It just takes seven schools in favor of expansion and one school willing to halt the process on behalf of the Pirates.

It would just take one. That’s all it took for Virginia Tech.

You have to assume that Duke and North Carolina would still be against a multi-team expansion based on their stance thus far. One member that threatens to join the Blue Devils and Tar Heels and gum up the works gives Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Maryland considerable leverage if there was one program that any of those schools wanted to advocate as the 12th member.

Virginia revealed that weakness in the system.

So who might go to bat for the Pirates? Although ECU would bring more to the ACC table than much of the league even realizes, friendships aren’t enough to make it happen. Florida State athletics director Dave Hart isn’t in position to help his former employer.

ECU athletics director Mike Hamrick can’t ask a favor of that magnitude from his buddy, Wake Forest athletics director Ron Wellman.

The fulcrum to leverage the process in ECU’s favor lies in the political system. If Governor Mike Easley could be prevailed upon to make a case for elevating the Pirates into a super conference within the context of creating a better competitive situation for a state university, that could possibly start the ball rolling.

If Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and Minges Coliseum's Williams Arena suddenly became venues for standing-room-only ACC football and basketball games, the positive effects would extend far beyond East Carolina University. The substantial economic impact of such an eventuality would filter throughout the economies of many counties in the region, and that's the kind of results politicians achieve far too seldom.

N.C. State would be the school that would be most susceptible to jawboning from Easley and state political leaders such as Senate leader Marc Basnight, who is credited with helping get NCSU and UNC to begin scheduling ECU again in football.

Admittedly, it’s a long shot — any scenario in which the Pirates would depend on the Wolfpack to advance athletically is a long shot. But it’s still probably ECU’s best shot at getting into the ACC, which would be the best possible league affiliation for the Pirates from geographic, economic and cultural standpoints.

ECU is still more like an SEC program in terms of its football orientation and the nature of its fan base. The Big East might possibly provide access to the BCS, but indications are that any expansion by the Big East would be characterized by a higher level of planning, thought and discretion than that which has been displayed by the ACC.

Conference USA is a good fit for the Pirates' current competitive level but history has shown that East Carolina is a growing athletic program, covering a lot of ground since its days as a small college in the mid-1960s.

ECU and Virginia Tech were relative equals in their sports endeavors as recently as 10 years ago. Look at what membership in the Big East did to propel the Hokies program to lofty heights during the 'nineties.

The ACC would provide a ladder for the Pirates to continue their athletic ascension. All ECU would need is a helping hand from an in-state sister institution.

Is it unlikely? Very. But just think what some proactive political advocacy has done for Virginia Tech over the last several weeks.

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02/23/2007 12:40:46 AM

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