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SURVEYING THE LANDSCAPE
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Pirate Notebook No. 502
Monday, December 3, 2012

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

Big East was ECUís only move

Harris Poll

For the seventh year in a row, columnist Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA. His weekly ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the rest of the season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. O'Brien's ballot below was filed in conjunction with this week's Harris Poll.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

(Ballot filed 12.02.12;
ECU opponents and current
and incoming Conference USA
teams highlighted in yellow.
)

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. Florida
  5. Oregon
  6. Louisiana State
  7. Kansas State
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Stanford
10. South Carolina
11. Oklahoma
12. Florida State
13. Clemson
14. Northern Illinois
15. Oregon State
16. Northwestern
17. Boise State
18. Utah State
19. Michigan
20. Vanderbilt
21. Louisville
22. San Jose State
23. UCLA
24. Kent State
25. Tulsa

Weekly BCS Standings

Weekly Voters' Polls

ITEMS OF INTEREST

Big East was ECUís only move
Audio: Coach Ruff on Bowling & Big East
Denny O'Brien's Harris BCS Poll Ballot
BCS Standings
Harris, AP & USA Today Polls
Updated C-USA Bowl Schedule & TV Listings
Spied from the Crow's Nest
Web Headlines Roundup
Niners overpower East Carolina
Whidbee bringing red zone talents to ECU
Ruff has a new tool in his bag
Gridiron Pirates set sail for Big East
News sweep: ECU-Big East nuggets from the Internet
Press Conference Audio: ECU to Big East
Pirates point to postseason
Pirates headed to Big Easy or St. Pete
Kemp, Sampson power Pirates
ECU Football Schedule
ECU Basketball Schedule
Year-by-Year Recruiting

By Denny O'Brien
©2012 Bonesville.net
All Rights Reserved.

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To some degree, East Carolinaís football-only entrance into the Big East has placed the Pirates back into a competitive scenario that parallels 1999. Thatís when ECU had football-only membership in Conference USA and competed in the Colonial Athletic Association for its other sports.

Given that the new-look Big East will competitively mirror C-USA 1.0, not much will have changed for the Pirates competitively, especially if they find a regional refuge for menís hoops and the non-revenue programs.

That scenario is why some have criticized the ECU administrationís decision to accept the Big Eastís invitation. But given the alternative, it was the only decision to make.

That alternative would have been a status quo in league affiliation that included a drastic reduction in overall quality. The Pirates would have traded a burgeoning rivalry with Central Florida for annual games with Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

There would have been some regional flavor to the Piratesí new C-USA menu, but you wonít find many who were truly excited about football home-and-homes with Old Dominion and Charlotte. At least not anyone interested in seeing ECU make an immediate climb within the quickly changing athletics landscape.

There simply is no debating that Big East membership ó even if it entails only football ó is a giant step up.

"It is our intention for today's announcement to be a strong first step toward finding the best competitive environment possible for ECU's nineteen varsity sports," ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland said Tuesday when the Pirates accepted the Big East's invitation to join the league. "Big East football provides an opportunity to renew old rivalries and begin new ones, both of which will be exciting for our players, coaches and fans.

ďA football-only membership provided ECU's gateway to an all sports membership in C-USA and a number of other successful programs, including Virginia Tech, received their opportunity through a football-only membership in the Big East.Ē

Exactly which rivalries will be renewed isnít clear. Three previous and current Big East members the Pirates have played regularly in the past ó Louisville, Syracuse, and West Virginia ó have found greener pastures. Cincinnati, another previous rival, is actively seeking outside opportunities.

Even so, football-only Big East membership guarantees significantly more money to pad the Piratesí coffers. That money will come largely from a television contract that will far exceed anything C-USA has been able to deliver to date.

The presence of major TV markets and better competition will drive the Big Eastís price much higher than C-USA and all other leagues among the recently anointed ďGroup of Five.Ē

The Big East will also command better bowl opportunities and better home match-ups that will aid ECUís season ticket sales.

The absence of road trips to El Paso and Tulsa for ECUís Olympic sports teams will result in a reduction in travel expenses. Now the quest is to lock in a conference affiliation for those athletics programs that currently find themselves without a home.

Obviously the best case scenario would be full Big East admittance. With the recent departure of Louisville and the possibility of others bolting, thatís not completely out of the question down the road.

In the short term, the Pirates' non-football teams need to be associated with a competitive league that doesnít present a financial burden.

Of the possibilities, a return to the Colonial Athletic Association seems the most logical for ECU. It offers quality competition in all sports, and its roster includes many schools to which the Pirates can travel by bus. A benefit would be the renewal of several rivalries that went by the wayside when ECU departed the CAA a decade ago.

Over the years, no hoops series has ignited more passion inside Minges Coliseum than the Piratesí rivalry with UNC-Wilmington. James Madison, especially during the Lefty Driesell era, wasnít far behind.

The big question is whether CAA presidents and ADs would welcome the Pirates back knowing the potential of it being a temporary move for ECU.

If not, the Big South, Southern Conference and Atlantic Sun would seem like possibilities. There might be an outside chance of membership in the Atlantic 10, though it would take a while for the Pirates to become relevant there in menís hoops.

At this point, there seem to be more questions than answers about conference affiliation for ECUís non-football sports. As such, itís possible the Piratesí next home for those programs will be one less attractive than the current one.

But thatís the sacrifice East Carolina had to make. Accepting the Big Eastís football-only invitation was ECUís only move.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

12/03/2012 04:09 AM

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