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Pirate Notebook No. 437
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Denny O'Brien

Hot topics plentiful at C-USA Kickoff

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Ruffin McNeill
Dwayne Harris
(ECU SID images)


O'Brien: Offensive focus spreads eastward
O'Brien: Hot topics plentiful at C-USA Kickoff

MEMPHIS — Head coaches and one player from each school are scheduled to meet with the media this afternoon at the annual Conference USA Football Media Kickoff in Memphis. It marks the return of the traditional preseason media gathering after a one-year experiment with an online format.

The player representing two-time defending champion East Carolina is Dwayne Harris, the reigning C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year and a preseason all-league selection at wide receiver. Already the Pirates' all-time leader in career receptions, Harris needs only 104 yards to surpass Troy Smith as the program's leader in career receiving yards.

Other players expected to attend are Dominik Riley (Memphis, OL), Mario Harvey (Marshall, LB), Donald Buckram (UTEP, RB), Case Keenum (Houston, QB), Youri Yenga (Southern Methodist, LB), Andrew Nierman (Tulane, C), G.J. Kinne (Tulsa, QB), Bruce Miller (UCF, DE), Cheta Ozougwu (Rice, LB), Austin Davis (Southern Miss, QB), and Bryant Turner (UAB, DE).

First-year Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill is making his debut at C-USA's preseason festivities and will have many opportunities with the microphone. He, along with Harris, will participate in both video and radio interviews in addition to being available to the print and electronic media.

McNeill is scheduled for a video Q&A along with Tulane coach Bob Toledo and Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora at 4:15 p.m. McNeill will join Harris at 6:06 p.m. for an interview that will broadcast as part of a syndicated radio show airing live on WNCT 1070 AM in Greenville.

The C-USA radio broadcast is being produced by ISP Sports. It will air from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

There are several storylines worth following today.


Though expansion talk has been relatively quiet of late, this will mark the first time the media has had hands-on access to all C-USA coaches, as well as commissioner Britton Banowsky, at once.

There is little doubt that the topic will be broached by someone, and it will be interesting to see how some of the league coaches respond. Though most will likely dish out stock quotes, there is bound to be someone in the bunch who will speak more freely about his preferences.

If former Memphis coach Tommy West were still around, you can bet he would.

TV deal

Though it didn't receive an abundance of press, C-USA has extended its television deal with CBS College Sports until 2016.

The agreement is comprehensive in nature, including coverage of football, men's and women's hoops, and baseball. In addition to television, the deal covers Internet and video-on-demand.

Though the contract is certainly not in the stratosphere of the television deals struck by the Southeastern Conference or the ACC, you have to wonder what this will mean financially for each member school.

New faces

McNeill isn't the only new face that will be in attendance today. Marshall coach Doc Holliday and Memphis coach Larry Porter are making their inaugural appearances at the C-USA Media Kickoff.

East Carolina fans are familiar with Holliday, who was in the running for the Pirates' head coaching vacancy after Steve Logan was fired following the 2002 season. Holliday was favored by then-ECU athletics director Mike Hamrick, but he was vetoed by Bill Muse, the chancellor at the time.

Unlike McNeill, both Holliday and Porter have significant work ahead in terms of rebuilding their programs. That effort will require a tremendous increase in both wins and attendance.

Agent activity

With all the attention placed on agents and the amount of hustling they do on college campuses, C-USA members have kept their noses clean to date. And that's not for a lack of talent that is projected to have an impact at the next level.

It will be interesting to see how league coaches respond when asked about the steps they take to prevent such action from occurring around their program. It will be even more interesting to see how they react when asked their take on the use of social media outlets such as Twitter.

North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin was a serial 'tweeter', and his frequent updates on Twitter are part of the reason the Tar Heels find themselves in hot water with the NCAA.

Editor's Note: Denny O'Brien will be providing frequent updates throughout the event on twitter at will also have audio and a column from O'Brien Monday morning.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

07/26/2010 03:39 AM

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