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Notes, Quotes and Slants

Pirate Notebook No. 149
Monday, October 20, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Nick Floyd: Positioning the Pirates


Interim AD helping make ECU's case in conference shuffle

Nick Floyd has been East
Carolina's interim athletics
director since mid-August.
(Photo: ECU Media Relations)
Nick Floyd granted an
interview to's
Denny O'Brien while the two
were at Michie Stadium in
West Point, NY, for last
Saturday's ECU-Army game.
In addition to writing the
accompanying story, Denny
was able to digitally record
the session, which focused
heavily on conference
realignment issues and how
ECU fits into the puzzle. Click
the link below to listen...
Select clip...

Nick Floyd now has seen both sides of the fence.

As an assistant commissioner with Conference USA, Floyd helped oversee an expansion effort that brought East Carolina and Texas Christian into the league as all-sports members.

Now, as the interim director of athletics for ECU, he is working to help the Pirates better position themselves at the table when the next hand of realignment poker is dealt.

The objective? Membership in a league with a direct tie to the Bowl Championship Series.

"Our position from the very beginning has been to position our program to compete at the highest level possible," Floyd said in an interview at West Point, NY, on Saturday. "In the current climate, the highest level is the Bowl Championship Series.

"With that said, with the recent developments in the Big East, and Conference USA potentially down the road, there's always the possibility that there will be tweaks to the BCS  system.

"In the very near future, Conference USA could be on equal footing with the Big East in regard to access to the Bowl Championship Series. These are all things that we are taking into consideration as we move forward."

With the recent defections of Big East members Boston College, Miami, and Virginia to the ACC, there has been widespread speculation about the futures of several conferences. For starters, the Big East, which currently owns an automatic bid to the BCS, is widely believed to be targeting several C-USA schools.

Louisville and Cincinnati are believed to be frontrunners to join the Big East's holdovers as all-sports members. Marquette and DePaul have been heavily discussed as non-football-playing targets.

And there is more to come.

The Big East will have to add another football school in order to reach the NCAA's minimum requirement of eight teams for a conference. East Carolina, Central Florida and South Florida have been tossed around as possibilities. Army and Navy have been discussed by Big East presidents as football-only members.

According to an ECU source who has been briefed about the school's ongoing contacts regarding realignment scenarios, it is beginning to look as if the Pirates initially will be passed over by the Big East.

Floyd isn't operating under that assumption.

"There is nothing set in stone," he said. "I think every possibility is still on the table. If you will recall during the process that the Atlantic Coast Conference went through back in June, there was a time when everyone thought they were set in stone on how they were going to proceed, and at the last minute, that did not occur.

"I think that it is wise to keep in mind that everything is still speculative in nature, and as an institution, East Carolina is doing everything that it can to put ourselves in the best position possible."

And when you get down to it, Floyd says the Pirates have an excellent case.

"It's been my contention from the beginning of the realignment process that when you examine the facts of East Carolina University and our athletics program — more particularly, the football program — the facts speak for themselves," he said.

"You look at our season ticket base of 16,000; our Pirate Club membership of 8,000; our recent facilities improvements that will be pushing $50 million here in the near future with the completion of the baseball stadium project and the Pirate Club/Ticket Office project.

"When you look at the passionate and developed fan base at East Carolina University — fans that will go on the road, which is evident here against Army, and also at bowl games — these are things that are evaluated when you are looking at a program.

"Add on top of that the graduation rates of our football players — 70 percent in the most recent report, 66 percent for all of our student athletes — and no compliance issues."

What's more, noted Floyd, the Pirates' two-year recession on the gridiron hasn't been discussed in a negative light, and therefore doesn't appear to be a primary concern.

"Everyone goes through ups and downs in their program over a period of years," Floyd said. "But if you look at the competitiveness of our program — five bowl games in the last nine years, a number of winning seasons — the current downturn is a blip.

"But it is something that we have to deal with. Some people do look at the here and now, but we are trying to make people take a more global perspective and look at the big picture here, because there is no question that we are going to come out of this downturn in the very near future.

"Looking at all of the facts, to me we are beyond anyone on the horizon. It's our job to undergo an education process with the people who are making these decisions to make sure they know our program and what we are all about."

The supporting cast

Enter Roy Kramer.

Former East Carolina chancellor William V. Muse hired Kramer back in the summer as a consultant to help the Pirates enhance their chances of joining a BCS league.

A former Southeastern Conference commissioner and architect of the BCS, Kramer's hiring was originally viewed as a positive move by Pirates fans. However, a lack of tangible evidence of any progress so far has led some to question that decision.

But Floyd assures that the relationship with Kramer has been a positive experience.

"He understands the business of college athletics as well as anyone out there," Floyd said. "He is working very hard on our behalf. I think I talked to him four or five times this past week alone. He's doing everything he possibly can to be sure that people understand the facts about our program."

Since inheriting the athletics director's position when former AD Mike Hamrick left for Nevada-Las Vegas in August, Floyd has had little time to ease into the job. He immediately became the right-hand man of then-chancellor Muse as East Carolina continued its push for membership in a BCS league.

Now Muse is gone, having resigned in September amid controversy. He has been replaced by William Shelton, who already was playing a key role in athletics.

Though the leading men may have changed, the mission remains clear, and Floyd and Shelton continue to work hand-in-hand to see it through.

"Dr. Shelton and I were already working very closely together in his previous role as Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement, and my role as senior associate director of athletics," Floyd said. "We were already doing a lot of things together in regard to moving the program forward, looking at the various marketing things that we could do between the athletics program and the university. It's a relationship that has been very positive."

Rebuilding C-USA

With as many as five C-USA schools expected to accept invitations to the Big East, along with the widely speculated possibility that Charlotte and Saint Louis will leave for basketball driven leagues, ECU's current home is facing a rebuilding period.

It already has been reported that C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky has held discussions with presidents from Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa of the Western Athletic Conference. Each of those schools has responded favorably to Banowsky's overtures.

There also is the possibility, perhaps the likelihood, that C-USA will reach into the Mid-American Conference to lure Central Florida and Marshall as members.

Due to a confidentiality agreement among the league's athletics directors, Floyd was unable to confirm that. He did, however, note that Banowsky remains on top of the situation, despite the criticism the commissioner has received in the press.

"Britton has been on top of this process from the very beginning," Floyd said. "It's one thing to construct contingency plans, but in order to enact those contingency plans, you have to have a precipitating event.

"With the speculation about certain institutions leaving Conference USA, it was just speculation. You go ahead and construct your 'What If?' scenarios, then in the event that it becomes evident, then you move forward. I think that's where we are now. Commissioner Banowsky is moving forward with his contingency plan. I think the league that will be put together will be very good."

Adding Central Florida, Marshall, Rice, SMU, and Tulsa would accomplish many of the objectives league presidents and ADs have set forth. There would there be more geographic balance — the East and West divisions that would likely result would significantly cut travel costs — and a 12-team alignment would enable the conference to move forward with a lucrative championship game showcased on ABC.

Though Floyd noted that expansion revolves around the pigskin, he was quick to point out that other sports aren't being overlooked.

"A lot of this recent realignment has been football driven," Floyd said. "We want to be able to be in as strong a position from a football standpoint as possible. The competitiveness of the various football programs is important, as is the potential development of the football programs.

"But all sports are important. Conference USA is one of the top baseball leagues in the country. It's been one of the top basketball leagues as well."

By adding Marshall and Central Florida, many feel C-USA would more than account for the defections of any of the league's football programs in terms of tradition and potential. It is on the hardwood where the biggest blow will be dealt, though the addition of Tulsa would bring some substitute clout.

Rice is the reigning national champion in baseball and is as academically sound as Duke. SMU once was a national power in football, and with a new stadium and location in talent-rich Texas, the Pony Express is hopeful it soon will ride again.

Pressing forward

Even though it appears as if East Carolina could get left behind when the Big East makes its next move, Floyd remains optimistic about the Pirates' future.

If the Big East decides to increase its membership to only eight, Floyd is quick to point out that future additions are a distinct possibility. With NCAA rules mandating that at least 12 members are necessary to stage a league championship game, that is an option the Big East is likely to consider at some point.

Such a move almost assuredly would require the Big East football programs to separate from the rest of the league. Drawing from his own experience in C-USA, Floyd knows the importance of a common vision among the membership.

"Having been a member of the Conference USA office as well as working here at East Carolina, and you deal with the issues of football versus basketball, it's a challenge to keep people with divergent interests on the same page," Floyd said. "I think that is something that the Big East has looked at during this realignment process.

"And there is speculation that, in the future, there will be a split between the Big East football and basketball institutions. I think there are some very complex issues that they are having to deal with that make any type of split of that nature problematic at this point in time. But I think there is a possibility that that would happen in the near future."

And perhaps that would open the door for the Pirates.

However, if any open-door policy is contingent on a football-only membership, don't expect East Carolina to answer that call without carefully considering its options.

"At this point and time, that's not something that is of interest to East Carolina University," Floyd said. "I think the all-sports membership in Conference USA has been tremendously positive for our total athletics program.

"There are a tremendous number of issues that we would have to cross before we would be in a position to consider something of that nature."

The Big East's immediate intentions are expected to be finalized — and perhaps formally announced — when that league holds a much-speculated-about Nov. 4 meeting.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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02/23/2007 01:53:25 AM


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