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Pirate Notebook No. 455
Monday, December 6, 2010

Denny O'Brien

ECU can't pursue 'Little East'

Harris BCS Poll

For the fifth year in a row, Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. As a service to readers of this site, O'Brien's ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the rest of the season.

A senior columnist for, Bonesville The Magazine and The Pirates' Chest Magazine, O'Brien was nominated to the Harris Poll panel by Conference USA. The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings.

View the panel of 114 voters in the 2010 Harris Interactive College Football Poll.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

(Ballot cast 12.05.10)

  1. Auburn
  2. Oregon
  3. Texas Christian
  4. Stanford
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Ohio State
  7. Arkansas
  8. Boise State
  9. Virginia Tech
10. Oklahoma
11. Michigan State
12. Louisiana State
13. Nebraska
14. Oklahoma State
15. Nevada
16. Alabama
17. Missouri
18. Texas A & M
19. South Carolina
20. Utah
21. Mississippi State
22. West Virginia
23. Hawaii
24. Florida State
25. Connecticut

Final 2010 BCS Standings

Harris, AP, Coaches Polls



ECU can't pursue 'Little East'
Final 2010 BCS Rankings
Harris, AP, Coaches Polls
Conference USA Bowl Schedule & TV Listings
Pirates streak away from Broncos
Audio: Military Bowl President Steve Beck
Audio: Coach Ruff Military Bowl Press Conference
Pirates show progress in topping 49ers
Military Bowl a convenient hop for fans
Pirates get set for bowl trip
ECU should lighten the load
Week #6 BCS Rankings
Harris, AP, Coaches Polls
Hot-shooting ECU burns Spartans

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Editor's note: Column updated to correct the name of Delaware Athletic Director Bernard Muir.

Let's hope Bernard Muir is a straight shooter. Otherwise, East Carolina could be heading down a road towards athletics peril.

In a recent blog entry from, the website for the Wilmington News Journal, Blue Hens beat writer Kevin Tresolini paraphrased Muir, the University of Delaware AD, regarding a rumor that has been circulating the mid-Atlantic region for some time now.

The rumor? Delaware could be in discussions about a future FBS conference alignment with several CAA members, Appalachian State, and East Carolina.

Muir downplayed the legitimacy of the possibility, so that's a good thing. At least for now. But the fact that the scenario has been the subject of speculation in print and on talk radio can easily lead you to the conclusion that somewhere, and to some degree, the option has been discussed.

Hopefully the smoke in this case isn't the product of an inferno.

Should East Carolina align itself with those schools in a newly configured FBS conference, it would serve as a major step back for the Pirates. Make that a one-way ticket on a time machine back to the 1970s when the Pirates competed in the Southern Conference.

If not worse.

A new mid-Atlantic conference would certainly provide monetary relief considering the Olympic sports teams that must make occasional trips to El Paso and Tulsa. Trading commercial flights for chartered buses would be a welcome change by the ECU administration, but that simply can't occur at the cost of reducing the Pirates' football profile.

Which is exactly what a league of Blue Hens, Dukes, Monarchs, Mountaineers, and Spiders would do. While the Pirates could certainly benefit from having one of them on their schedule annually, having all of them encompass most of it could potentially cause irreparable harm to season ticket numbers.

In addition to attendance, securing bowl spots would present a challenge. Reaching an agreement with a notable television partner would be a bigger one.

Imagine a league with only two bowls — both of them held prior to Christmas — and having MASN as your major television partner.

A more favorable scenario definitely being discussed includes some level of merger or partnership between Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference. Among the ideas believed on the table is the possibility that the champions of the two could play each other in a title game, with the winner claiming an automatic bid in the Bowl Championship Series.

Assuming the current BCS AQ leagues agree, of course. And it could be beneficial for them to do so to avoid the potential for further litigation.

Aside from a spot in one of the big money games, such a merger could also provide additional bowl and television benefits. Both C-USA and the MWC could pool all of their resources to create an equation that drives an even greater return on investment for each league's member schools.

That's a decent fallback option should ECU not receive a bid to join the Big East. Given that Villanova has not yet accepted the invitation — and there is plenty of resistance on its campus to do so — you have to believe there is still a chance the Pirates could become the tenth member.

So there still is hope.

A spot in the Big East is obviously what ECU covets most. In the event the Pirates are left behind, you have to believe that athletics director Terry Holland has alternatives in mind.

Fostering a new relationship with the MWC might not be a geographic fit, but it could provide a competitive boost. Forming the Little East would improve gas mileage, but effectively deliver a major blow to the Pirates' athletics image.

ECU simply isn't in a position where it can afford that.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

01/20/2011 01:56 AM

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