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Pirate Notebook No. 432
Monday, June 7, 2010

Denny O'Brien

ECU, C-USA must find middle ground

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Conference USA has always been a poor fit for East Carolina geographically. Many insist that it’s a bad philosophical one, too.

The latter theory gained momentum at the C-USA spring meetings a couple of weeks ago in Destin, FL, when the league revealed its intentions to intervene in the non-conference scheduling process in men’s hoops. The message was essentially aimed at schools in the bottom third of the conference that play challenging schedules.

In other words, it was targeted at schools like ECU.

Since athletics director Terry Holland arrived, the Pirates have shown no fear about whom they schedule. Though there are seemingly annual games with St. Andrews, UVa-Wise, and North Carolina Central, those are balanced with match-ups against schools from power conferences such as the ACC, Atlantic 10, and SEC.

The rationale for C-USA is simple. Leagues that win 70 percent or more of their non-conference games traditionally send more teams to the NCAA Tournament. C-USA has been primarily a one-bid league since the Big East seized most of its power programs in 2003, and ‘scheduling up’ has done little to boost the league’s overall RPI.

Plus, more teams in the Big Dance means more money to spread around to member schools.

For ECU, the rationale is equally simple. The Pirates are a non-traditional hoops program that has struggled to draw significant interest from fans. The presence of a couple of recognizable opponents on the home schedule is essential for ECU to build any momentum at the box office.

The question is just how much C-USA will try to intervene in the scheduling process for conference members. Better yet, how much legal leverage does the conference even have for doing so?

And just how will East Carolina respond should the league office try to veto some of the opponents the Pirates want to schedule?

On one hand, East Carolina has to protect its best interests with scheduling and, as much as possible, cater to the interest of its fans. Whether they admit or not, most Pirates fans grew up watching ACC hoops, and those are the types of opponents they want to see occasionally in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.

On the other hand, ECU needs to be cooperative with the league office and demonstrate that it is a valuable teammate that ultimately is seeking the common good for the conference. When all is said and done with conference realignment, East Carolina could find itself in C-USA for good.

Bottom line, East Carolina needs a solution that meets its needs without burning any bridges in the process.

Early signing period

C-USA football coaches should be applauded for their stance on an early signing period in football. Because clearly they are pushing for one.

And it makes perfect sense that they do.

No one suffers more from the lone February Signing Day than non-Automatic Qualifying BCS schools. They typically are the first to discover those diamonds in the rough and offer scholarships, and often see AQ schools come in at the last minute and steal them away.

Perhaps an early signing period would prevent some of the pillaging.

It no doubt would reward the coaches from non-AQ schools who beat the bushes and discover unsung talent. And maybe it would help level the competitive gap that could grow even wider once the realignment dominoes start crashing again.

MWC Movement

News that the Mountain West Conference could add Boise State as early as today could be the biggest wild card in conference realignment. Should it occur, and should the MWC retain all of its existing members during the expansion process, the league should be granted BCS AQ status.


The addition of Boise State would give the conference two Top 5 teams, four perennial Top 20 programs, and easily push the league ahead of the Big East in the national pecking order.

The case can be made that the MWC would move ahead of the ACC as well. In the near term, the MWC definitely looks better.

You really have to hand it to league commissioner Craig Thompson. He has to be the most unheralded conference CEO in the business, and you simply won’t find many in the industry who outrank him when you consider what he’s accomplished.


O'Brien: ECU, C-USA must find middle ground
BVL: ECU Summer Baseball Camp Details
Myatt: McGuire's backs will be busy
BVL: ECU Football Recruiting Thumbnails
BVL: ECU Basketball Recruiting Thumbnails
BVL: Rice, USM charge into regionals
BVL: NCAA Regional Brackets (PDF)
BVL: Weekly Division I Baseball Polls
Batten: Myrtle Beach star finds a fit in Greenville
BVL Box Score: Memphis 3, East Carolina 2
BVL Box Score: ECU 8, Southern Miss 1
Myatt: Forget opener, C- USA tourney starts today
BVL Box Score: Rice 11, East Carolina 3
Bradsherr: Eventful spring for ECU athletics
Bailey: Barely in, but with new life

Under Thompson’s direction, the MWC added Texas Christian during the last round of expansion, and that has proven the most significant competitive move that was made. The conference also was the first to form its own network, and it broke ties with ESPN to avoid midweek games.

The next time an AQ conference is searching for a new commissioner, Thompson will be a wanted man. But if the MWC adds Boise State, he shouldn’t have to leave to have an AQ home.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

08/06/2010 01:56 AM

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