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Care to guess East
Carolinaís football record on Sunday nights?
Itís one win and zero
losses Ė an unforgettable 41-38 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl squeaker over
national sweetheart Boise State.
Undefeated and untied as
far as ECUís historical records can trace. Perfection.
But itís the thought of
another Sunday evening edition of ECU football that is completely
imperfect. Thatís if rumblings of an ESPN televised Conference USA
showdown with Central Florida are true.
Recent reports from the
Sunshine State have linked ECU and Central Florida to a possible Sunday
shootout. Itís a part of ESPNís one-size-fits-some package for
televising C-USA games, a deal that includes mostly non-traditional
dates and ratings battles with your favorite rendition of Law and Order.
Truthfully, it fits most.
Just not East Carolina. And if it came down to a choice between no
televised games or a handful of non-Saturday ESPN showcases, ECU AD
Terry Holland makes his druthers no secret.
ďWe now know and
acknowledge that our football future is tied directly to personal
involvement with our fans and not on television dollars or exposure,Ē
ďAlso," added Holland,
"our recruits want to play in front of a full house more than before a
television audience, particularly since many of our recruits are from
the immediate area and their parents and families plan to see the games
ďEvery home game is
available on computer now, so network TV, or even radio, is not nearly
as necessary as it once was for recruiting or exposure. We are committed
to doing everything possible to start ECU home games between 1 p.m. and
7 p.m. on Saturdays, depending on the time of year and expected weather
Thatís the right approach
for East Carolina. At this stage in the programís history, the lure of
television isnít nearly as attractive as a full stadium on a picturesque
But, unfortunately, ECU
has little choice when it comes to conference match-ups. Make that none.
And with the Piratesí successful conclusion to the 2007 season and their
status as a C-USA favorite in í08, the possibility of other undesirable
schedule dates seems likely.
That includes Fridays.
Though Holland has done everything in his power to avoid Friday nights,
heís still at the mercy of ESPN executives.
ďESPN understands the need
for ECU and other schools to maintain good relationships with the high
schools in their state, so they will not make the request for Friday as
long as they have a suitable inventory of teams that can play on Friday
nights,Ē Holland said. ďThe High School Association also knows how hard
we work to avoid Friday night games and would understand if and when we
have to play on a Friday night.Ē
Thatís the good news. At
the very least it appears ECU has already taken the necessary
precautions to avoid the PR blunder it suffered in 2002 when
then-athletics director Mike Hamrick
blindsided the stateís high schools.
The bad news is the
reality that some of ECUís conference games could be slated for
non-traditional dates. Itís become fairly common for league favorites,
and Southern Miss was the primary victim last year with only four of its
six home games played on Saturdays.
A similar scenario would
severely damage East Carolinaís attendance numbers. The Pirates have the
best fan following in C-USA, and have traditionally averaged over 35,000
since Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium last expanded regardless of their record or
With ECUís statewide and
Tidewater following, weeknight games have proven a logistical pothole
for fans with commutes that exceed two hours. And the last thing East
Carolina needs is a midweek national stage amid a backdrop of uncovered
Considering the lowered
perceptions and reduced attendance often associated with games played on
days other than Saturday, itís tempting to question C-USA commissioner
Britton Banowsky about the leagueís deal with ESPN. But that position is
Most C-USA schools perform
poorly at the box office anyway, and that includes some of its most
competitive programs. Truly, Tuesday or Wednesday nights have minimal
overall effect on attendance at Houston, Southern Miss, or Tulsa, and
the television spotlight helps compensate for the empty seats that exist
regardless of the day on which games are played.
ECU just happens to be in
the minority in the C-USA TV debate. But when it comes down to filling
its 2008 lineup, ESPN is unlikely to take that into account.