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Pirate Notebook No. 426
Monday, April 12, 2010

Denny O'Brien

BCS could become more exclusive

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Butlerís run to the NCAA title game was as improbable as it was memorable. Not because the Bulldogs werenít a capable bunch, but because schools outside of the Bowl Championship Series football conferences rarely come within inches of capturing a national title in hoops.

Sure, they routinely pull the first and second round upsets. Happens every year. And every year we applaud when they eliminate members of the nationís elite.

Often the response from fans and pundits extends beyond the cheerleading and into predictable rants about a BCS system that takes a completely different path to crown a national champion. If a school can make noise on the hardwood with less name recognition and limited resources, then others can do so on the gridiron if given the opportunity.

At least thatís the mindset of many who support a college football playoff. But truthfully it would be near impossible to replicate the widespread drama of March Madness in December and January.

That is unless the NFL establishes a one-and-done rule, and the NCAA both reduces the number of scholarships in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision to 65 and also seizes control of the pigskin postseason.

We all know none of that will happen. At least not in our lifetime.

If anything, we could be on the verge of more exclusivity in major college football. It just depends on which, if any, of the gazillion conference realignment scenarios mentioned over the past couple of months actually pans out.

Will it be only Pittsburgh heading to the Big Ten as we heard a couple of months ago? Texas making a head-scratching jump from the Big XII to the Big Ten? Or maybe itís Missouri, followed by Arkansas to the Big XII and Clemson to the Southeastern Conference.

Perhaps Notre Dame finally joins a conference and no other changes occur. Or maybe itís just the opposite: the Big Ten explodes to 16 and forces a tsunami of activity among the other major conferences trying to keep pace in the financial tug-of-war.

Itís the latter that could be the ultimate undoing for many schools in leagues without BCS automatic qualifier conference status. It certainly is the catalyst for some anxiety among East Carolina constituents who remember getting passed over by the Big East a few years ago.

The absolute worst-case scenario was hinted at several weeks ago by West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart during a television interview. He was matter-of-fact in his statement that Big East football could implode more violently than Texas Stadium.

And you can certainly understand why Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and his administrative cohorts might find that scenario attractive.

A BCS system with only five automatic qualifier conferences would mean more money to spread around among fewer leagues. It also would increase the television demand and generate more at-large opportunities to big money bowls for the power leagues.

Consider it addition by subtraction, with the likely result an even deeper monetary and competitive trench separating the schools with AQ status from those without it.

What should now be clear for East Carolina is that it canít put all of its eggs in the Big Eastís basket, and you can rest assured that Piratesí athletics director Terry Holland isnít. There is no question that his greatest attributes as an AD are his visionary abilities to think outside the box and his possession of rolodex that is rivaled by few.

For every realistic realignment scenario, he likely has a Plan A, B, and C for the Pirates. Heís probably considered everything from improving the competitive and geographic makeup of Conference USA to forming a new league that includes realignment casualties.

(Those, of course, would be Plan B and Plan C types of examples. Any Plan A almost certainly would be some level of membership in an AQ conference.)

At the very least, ECU is infinitely more prepared for any upheaval this time around. Just like it has better positioned itself as a candidate for BCS AQ inclusion than it was in the Fall of 2003.

Itís difficult to predict when final decisions will be made on the Big Tenís future. It could be next week or sometime next year. So many factors are involved in decisions of this magnitude, and only those closely involved in the process have a clue about the who, when, and how.


O'Brien: BCS could become more exclusive
BVL Box Score: East Carolina 3, Memphis 2
Audio: Ruffin McNeill After Scrimmage
BVL Box Score: East Carolina 20, Memphis 9
BVL Box Score: Memphis 6, ECU 5
Myatt: Time to check on the other guys
Batten: Air Raid offense lures Havelock star
BVL: Recruiting Class of 2011 Thumbnails
Bailey: Ol' ECU spirit alive and well this spring
O'Brien: TMI in the blink of a digital eye
Audio: Ruffin McNeill After First Scrimmage
Batten: Next recruiting class starts with OLB

Even so, you have to acknowledge that the opportunity to improve ECUís athletics positioning could be looming around the corner. And if shifting occurs at the magnitude that many are predicting, this could be the Piratesí last chance to gain AQ status for the foreseeable future.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

08/06/2010 01:56 AM

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