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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, June 30, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Dominos teetering as Miami steps to the plate


Friendly merger of leagues makes sense
Survival in question for hybrid conferences
Miami Makes the Leap — Now What?
Hurricanes rage 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..?

At this advanced point, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s expansion efforts might be likened to some sort of bizarre baseball game with the Big East. There’s two out (Syracuse and Boston College) and an unusual full count (7-2) in the bottom of the ninth. Virginia Tech has just stolen home but no one is sure what that means in terms of the score.

It all depends on Miami. The Hurricanes stepped up to the plate on Thursday evening — and backed out and called time. They’ve conferred with managers — from both teams — and are expected to step back into the batter’s box at 4 p.m. today.

Miami’s at-bat is like the premise of a home run derby — all or nothing. It’s either out of the park and out of the Big East or anything else is an out and a loss for the ACC.

Managers Johnny Swofford of the ACC and Mike Tranghese of the Big East are poised for one of the all-time Maalox moments. With one big swing from Miami president Donna Shalala, one skipper will be a hero; the other, a goat.

Several factors have made this game highly unusual. When the first pitch was thrown, Virginia Tech was in the Big East dugout. The Hokies were spitting sunflower seeds and riding the ACC with their Big East teammates. In a rare move, Virginia governor-turned-sports-entrepreneur Mark Warner cut a sweet deal for Virginia Tech to become a free agent and join the ACC — in the middle of the game.

This game has had an abundance of switch hitters. Although no one can match the Hokies in that regard, N.C. State’s Marye Anne Fox has given a great individual effort. Miami appeared to be swinging from both sides in the on-deck circle before its critical turn at the plate. But whatever Miami does, the Hokies will go home winners.

Another factor that makes this game unusual is that Syracuse and Boston College, the first two outs in the bottom of the inning, have returned to pitch to Miami. The Hurricanes have a uniform hanging in the Big East clubhouse. Make an out for the ACC and Miami will be welcomed back into its old locker room with a hefty new contract to boot.

No one is sure how the specter of Notre Dame may impact Miami’s at-bat. Swofford and Fox apparently have hopes of getting the Irish into the ACC lineup. The ACC would love to bring in Notre Dame as a pinch hitter.

But Tranghese may have the Irish warming up in the bullpen, which, like much of this unusual game, is obscured from public view.

The umpiring crew, the NCAA, has long since departed. On the first call of the game, crew chief Myles Brand threw up his hands and abdicated all responsibility to mediate. The sanctioning body that has become the administering force is the bowl championship series. Its pockets are full of television money and that’s a big part of why this game is so important. In another unusual circumstance, Duke and North Carolina have argued against every call that has gone in favor of the ACC expansion team.

The game, of course, is being played under protest — a lawsuit in Connecticut is challenging the ACC’s recruiting practices and no one is sure what effect that might have on the Hurricanes.

Being played on a growing national stage, the game — the part of it that the public can see — has attracted some highly-interested observers. The fan base of every practically every Division I-A college team is watching because the repercussions from the outcome could be far-reaching in their consequences.

East Carolina’s leadership is trying to figure who it should pull for.

If Miami goes to the ACC or stays in the Big East, they’re wondering how each of those scenarios would impact the Pirates. ECU chancellor William Muse has only said that North Carolina political interests should check on the rewards involved in getting the Pirates into the ACC lineup. But he knows it’s a long shot.

Muse knows the Pirates might look pretty spiffy in a Big East uniform, too, and that appears to be a stronger possibility. Several Conference USA schools apparently have been getting measured privately for Big East jerseys. Some say Louisville has all but tied its shoes in Big East togs. There would be a lot of room for ECU to grow in a Big East uniform and yet it would still be a good fit.

One thing ECU fans can count on is that Muse knows how to play this game as well as anyone the Pirates could have in his position.

North Carolina governor Mike Easley and UNC system president Molly Broad are both in attendance but neither seems concerned about what’s happening on the field. Easley is chatting on his cellphone and the snippits of conversation from his end are largely dominated by comments such as, “No, no, no ... veto” and “ ... they haven’t called me.”

Wait, the Governor is putting on his sunglasses. No, those might be blinders. Maybe he doesn’t want to see what’s going on. Broad keeps giving her coaches and players the same obvious sign, it’s — “you’re on your own.” Now she’s giving the same sign to Muse.

People have been trying to steal signs the whole way because, with the playing field obscured, it is one of few means to interpret what’s going on. Virginia president John Casteen has been in the influential position of coaching third base. He gave the Hokies the sign to steal home, perhaps hoping they would be called out. It didn’t happen and now the focus is on Miami.

Some old-timers say this game reminds them a lot of one between the Big Eight and the Southwest Conference years ago. The Big Eight became the Big 12 and the Southwest never played again.

The consequences of hardball between the Big East and ACC may not be so severe but regardless of what Miami does — home run or out — another strange dimension of this game is that it’s probably going to extra innings.

New roles for former ECU coaches

Steve Logan, the head coach at East Carolina for 12 seasons from 1992 to 2002, provided television commentary for a Tennessee high school all-star football game on Saturday night on the Fox Sports network and may do more work on the college level in the fall.

One viewer said Logan was able to mix his football knowledge with his dry Oklahoma wit to produce an effective combination with play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

And from Sunday’s list of transactions — former ECU men’s basketball coach Joe Dooley is now an assistant on the staff of new Kansas coach Bill Self.

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02/23/2007 12:40:47 AM

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