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Pirate Notebook No. 402
Monday, October 19, 2009

Denny O'Brien

Television deal doesn’t fit ECU

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Harris Poll

For the fourth 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 season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. The BCS Standings also take into account the USA Today Coaches Poll and an average of several computer service rankings.

A senior columnist for, Bonesville The Magazine and The Pirates' Chest, O'Brien was nominated to the Harris Poll panel by Conference USA. View the entire 114-member panel.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

(Ballot cast 10.18.09)

  1. Alabama
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Southern Cal
  5. Texas Christian
  6. Louisiana State
  7. Iowa
  8. Miami (FL)
  9. Cincinnati
10. Boise State
11. Penn State
12. Oregon
13. Georgia Tech
14. Oklahoma State
15. Virginia Tech
16. Brigham Young
17. Houston
18. West Virginia
19. Ohio State
20. Utah
21. Texas Tech
22. Pittsburgh
23. Oklahoma
24. Kansas
25. South Carolina

View this Week's Complete Harris, AP & Coaches Polls

View this Week's Inaugural 2009 BCS Football Rankings


O'Brien: Television deal doesn’t fit ECU
BVL: BCS Standings
BVL: This Week's Polls
C-USA Standings, Scores, Schedule, TV
Game Center: East Carolina 49, Rice 13
Box Score / Statistics
BVL Audio: Replay Skip Holtz post-game
Talk FM: Replay Game Day Countdown
Talk FM: Replay Post-game Call-in Show
O'Brien: Offense gets a boost
Myatt: Up next: Schedule quirks
Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
C-USA Standings, Scores, Schedule, TV
ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance, TV Listings
Myatt: Holtz piloting Bucs through choppy seas
Bailey: Holtz makes the point about points

ESPN didn’t do East Carolina many favors this season. When the “Worldwide Leader” announced its 2009 broadcast schedule, it was clear that the Pirates must have drawn the short straw on available time slots.

Though ECU was rewarded with a Thursday night showcase with nationally-ranked Virginia Tech, that spotlight game is sandwiched between two important Conference USA contests on non-traditional nights. It begins with a Tuesday night trip to Memphis and concludes with a Sunday special in Tulsa.

To have one game not fall on a traditional Saturday is one thing. To have three in a row is uncharted territory that creates a logistical migraine for a head coach.

“It’s going to be really different,” East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said. “There’s not anybody that I can call and say, ‘Have you ever had ten days to prepare for three games in a row?’

“We go ten days, nine days, ten days I believe it is, and there is not a formula for this. Everywhere I’ve been, it’s like, OK, you have an open date. You practice them Sunday and you give them these days off. Then you go at it hard. These are the pads days with what you have to get done. I don’t want to make this confusing, but all of a sudden a Saturday may be a Thursday.”

While adjusting the weekly routine might not seem a big deal to casual observers, it presents a significant challenge to the coaches and players who must experience it. So much of success in college football is dictated by a team’s rhythm, and it can be difficult to keep one when the schedule lacks any semblance of consistency.

It’s why you often see poor execution by at least one team during these ESPN midweek contests. Outside of a few exceptions, the general rule for these games is a blowout margin staged in a half-empty stadium.

Not what you would call must-see TV.

Some might say this is the price a C-USA program must pay for the spotlight of national television. But in ECU’s case, the cost easily outweighs any advantages that might be provided by an ESPN audience — especially for a school that already is a regular on the network.

By scheduling well outside the conference, East Carolina athletics director Terry Holland has maintained many of the Pirates’ regional rivalries and manufactured made-for-TV match-ups. And by keeping schools from BCS Automatic Qualifier conferences on the docket, Holland has essentially ensured that the Pirates will secure desirable kickoffs.

About the only benefit the Pirates will receive from their next four games is a couple of extra days before each contest to heal some bruises. That is except for the Pirates’ C-USA East Division showdown with UAB, which occurs just six days after their game at Tulsa.

A date with the Blazers presents an even greater challenge than usual considering the Pirates aren’t scheduled to return from Tulsa until early Monday morning. That will leave little time for ECU to gather its legs and prepare for a UAB club that currently is in the thick of the East Division race.

This easily rates as the greatest logistical challenge Holtz has faced at ECU, and no coach or team in the program’s history has been presented with a similar gauntlet.

If Holtz can find a way to complete this stretch with a 3-1 mark, it could rate as some of the finest coaching ever witnessed at the school. It might even top ECU’s march to the C-USA title last season with a trimmed-down depth chart.

When C-USA renews its television agreements with ESPN and CBS College Sports, you have to wonder how much influence East Carolina will have with the league office. It’s clear that these midweek and Sunday night games just don’t fit in with ECU’s football motives.

But unfortunately for the Pirates, the league has a few too many attention-starved programs. Rice, Southern Methodist, Tulane, and UAB will take any television time slot they can get, even if that means taking the dregs of what the national networks are willing to offer.

When you consider the most recent television deal struck by the Southeastern Conference, it doesn’t look like C-USA is in too much of a position to bargain.

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10/19/2009 04:27 AM

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