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Pirate Notebook No. 337
Monday, March 3, 2008

By Denny O'Brien

CSTV makeover could benefit C-USA

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Apparently CBS is serious about expanding its presence on the landscape of college athletics.

With its decision to re-brand CSTV as the CBS College Sports Network, CBS took a major step towards challenging ABC/ESPN in the growing broadcasting niche. And when Billy Packer appeared as the analyst for CSTVís coverage of Memphis and Tulsa on Wednesday, it was apparent that CBS plans to use its top talent on the remodeled network.

So whatís the relevance to ECU?

Maybe none. Or maybe it could lead to a more desirable television home for Conference USA and more money to fatten the coffers of member schools.

At the very least, it should position C-USA to entertain a bidding war between the two media empires when the leagueís television contracts expire in a couple of years. It should also enable C-USA to negotiate more desirable time slots and potentially escape ESPNís mid-week exiles if it chooses.

The opportunity is certainly there. With CBSís big money backing, branding, and history with college athletics, there is no reason to think the network wonít flourish.

The CBS mother ship already is home to the most dramatic event in televised athletics Ė March Madness Ė and its weekly broadcast of Southeastern Conference football is second to none.

With both the Big Ten and Mountain West Conference boasting their own television networks, the battle for media bucks in college athletics now rivals the arms race for facilities.

While C-USA isnít quite ready to brand its own network, it at least has positioned itself to receive a bigger piece of the pie. Credit Commissioner Britton Banowsky for that.

Banowsky received his share of criticism when C-USA struck deals with both ESPN and CSTV on the current contracts. One was viewed negatively because of the introduction of midweek broadcasts, the other because of its lack of recognition nationally.

By partnering with both, C-USA has established strong relationships that each network no doubt will seek to continue. And considering the future prospects of the CBS College Sports Network, either could be viewed as a viable option for a permanent television home.

The potential competition between the two networks could prove beneficial for C-USA.

Scheduling coup

The release of the 2008 football schedule delivered good news to ECU fans. Absent from the docket were mid-week ESPN broadcasts, and the Sunday night showdown at Central Florida was the only non-traditional date.

That meant the preservation of fall Saturdays in Greenville. And with games against Virginia Tech in Charlotte, at rival N.C. State, and against Virginia in Charlottesville, it means eight games that are easily accessible by car.

Perhaps the most intriguing showdown on the gauntlet is the opener against the Hokies.

Games on neutral turf typically generate a lot of excitement and provide a bowl-like setting. Given the narrow margin between these two clubs last year and ECUís Sheraton Hawaii Bowl victory over Boise State, the buzz couldnít be higher.

If you need a reminder of ECUís record in season openers in Bank of America Stadium, itís perfect. The Pirates beat West Virginia to open 1999 in what was considered at the time to be an upset.

Pivotal match-ups

The 2008 baseball season isnít yet two weeks old, but East Carolina already faces a pair of critical showdowns.

This weekís non-conference games against Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth arenít exactly make-or-break, but both could prove huge in determining the Piratesí postseason fate.

The biggest question marks still facing the Piratesí are midweek starting pitching and a solid anchor in the bullpen. With so many midweek games on the schedule, both can be the difference between a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament and staying home.

Both ODU and VCU are traditionally solid opponents against which wins would provide a boost to both the Piratesí confidence and RPI. Losses could mean missed opportunities to notch quality wins and heighten discomfort about ECUís primary concerns.

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03/02/2008 06:25:15 PM

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