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Pirate Notebook No. 433
Monday, June 14, 2010

Denny O'Brien

Realignment 2010: Predators vs. predators

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

So this is the ĎBig One.í Realignment Armageddon. A Trail of Tears for Baylor, Iowa State, and any other leftovers should the Big XII implode.

In the bizarro world of college athletics, who could have envisioned a scenario in which Conference USA or the Sun Belt outlasted a BCS Automatic Qualifier conference? Or individual schools testing the market like professional free agents?

Definitely not me.

John Swofford and the major players in conference expansion from 2003 couldnít have predicted it, either.

But itís looking more like the End Times for the Big XII is near, a possibility that could be decided as early as Tuesday when the University of Texas System Board of Regents meets to determine the Longhornsí conference fate.

We might as well change the name from the BCS to the DCS. Because the Darwinian Championship Series is more accurate nomenclature for a competitive system of natural selection, one in which perceived predatory conferences are in danger of becoming extinct at the hands of more dominant predators.

The unpredictable nature of what could occur this week has raised the anxiety of administrators and fans from Greenville to Lawrence. In one locale you have a school facing perhaps its final opportunity for AQ inclusion. In the other you have one of the nationís most prestigious hoops outposts in serious danger of losing it.

If nothing else it demonstrates the minimal impact basketball has on shaping the direction of conference realignment. Well, unless your name is the Big East, the one BCS AQ conference (at least for the time being) that clings to a structure that is driven by hoops.

In a tsunami of unknowns, there is at least one certainty in this game of conference switch-a-roo. The gap between the divisions in the Football Bowl Subdivision is guaranteed to grow.

When the Big Ten, Pac-Pick a Number, and the Southeastern Conference all strike their next TV deals, expect record returns. When it comes time to structure new bowl contracts, look for the number of tie-ins and payouts to grow.

And when it comes to the number of entries to the big money bowls, those could become even more exclusive to AQ leagues.

If the non-AQ conferences are considered the dregs of major college football, imagine how they will be perceived when the conference shuffling is complete. Not highly, thatís for sure.

The perception is likely to parallel the bank account. Both should prove a small fraction of what the Big Boys will command.

Act of desperation?

You canít knock Memphis for trying. It has been proactive in its campaign to join a BCS AQ conference, somewhat with action, but mostly with words.

A recent report that FedEx CEO Fred Smith is willing to purchase Memphisí entrance into an AQ conference ó a report that FedEx is now refuting ó is telling on many fronts. Most notable is the notion that Smithís bank account is the Tigersí biggest selling point.

Think about it.

Menís basketball, the crown jewel of Memphis athletics, is constantly under suspicion for questionable recruiting tactics. In football, the Tigers ranked among the worst outfits in the FBS last season, and couldnít even draw 5,000 for their home game against East Carolina.

(Note: The announced attendance at the game was less than 5,000. The athletics department changed it to more than 30,000 ó the number of tickets sold ó a day later.)

In the end, Memphis could find itself in an AQ conference, but it wonít be the product of what it has accomplished between the hashes.

Clearly the Tigersí greatest appeal is the number of decimals that can be produced by the stroke of a shipping mogulís pen, should he decide to use it.

Holland draws response

It didnít take long for ECU athletics director Terry Hollandís latest ďMessage to the Pirate NationĒ to make the rounds among the national media. Bloggers and columnists from ESPN to the Dallas Morning News quoted Holland on the topic of conference expansion.

In the message, Holland specifically mentioned scenarios involving the Big XII, C-USA, and the Big East. Itís just not clear how much of it was based on opinion versus facts about what is occurring behind the scenes.

Holland is widely revered by ECU fans for, among other things, a degree of transparency that is unmatched in the profession. You simply wonít find another athletics director at a major university willing to disclose his (or her) thought process so openly to fans.


O'Brien: Realignment 2010: Predators vs. predators
Myatt: Godwin surveys Major League draft
Bailey: Godwin busy during long, slow summer
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 Baseball Polls
Batten: Myrtle Beach star finds a fit in Greenville
Myatt: Forget opener, C- USA tourney starts today
Bradsherr: Eventful spring for ECU athletics

And that can be both good and bad.

Some around the Blogosphere are questioning whether Hollandís recent message was a stroke of PR genius, or an ill-advised monologue that could backfire on ECU. If you ask me, probably neither.

While Hollandís message raised a few eyebrows, it is hardly the fuel that keeps the expansion fires burning. Too many schools are in play and too much money is at stake for a single letter to prompt knee-jerk decisions.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

08/06/2010 01:56 AM

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