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News Nuggets, 07.30.03

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Compiled from staff reports and electronic dispatches

Pirate football scores late recruiting find in Oklahoma


07.29.03: Studdard lends UAB-USM opener 'American Idol' magnitude... .. Pool of Rebels A.D. candidates shrinks... .. Court voids NCAA limits on 'exempt' hoops tournaments... .. More...
07.28.03: Blazers ink 'high-powered' radio deal... .. Tulane QB Losman riding publicity wave... .. Quartet of C-USA quarterbacks on O'Brien list... .. Billikens A.D. denies seeking UNLV job... .. More...
07.27.03: Realignment pressures and NCAA heat spur changes at Fresno State... .. Vegas Classic box office pits N.C. A&T grads against Southern alums... .. Big Ten brushes off title game talk... .. More...
07.26.03: Hamrick name resurfaces in connection with UNLV... .. Liberty Bowl partner's football tickets moving briskly... .. Sun Belt football league feeling its oats... .. Gamecocks end Turman exile... .. More...
07.25.03: Repercussions from 'ancient' Big East blunder still sting... .. Heir to Ragone still subject to change... .. Blue Demons devise creative ticket sales push... .. C-USA teams set for ESPN Plus appearances... .. More...
07.24.03: Tranghese disputes Swofford apology claim... .. Banowsky articulates league's posture... .. Billikens maintain monopoly on brains... .. Books fell promising Bulls basketball player... .. More...
07.23.03: Coaches declare Frogs superior... .. Tranghese repents, Swofford doesn't... .. Bulls break out new logos... .. UNC-Chapel Hill offers gridiron school for women... .. More...
07.22.03: Greenville startup hops aboard sports radio waves... .. Houston player's career extended... .. Rattlers promoted to I-A... .. Murder charge lodged against Dotson... .. Marquette legend joins Crean staff... .. More...
07.21.03: ACC raid draws attention of Congress... .. West taps into Clemson connections for assistant coach... .. Arena football player dies on bench... .. More...
07.20.03: Meet, mingle and eat with the Pirates... .. Date dampens demand for WVU-VPI ducats... .. Non-BCS CEO's sign up in big numbers for Cowen summit... .. Monetary affairs discourage in-state rivalry... ..  49ers lose one, keep one... .. More...
07.19.03: C-USA formally shifts into football mode... .. Get up close and personal with J.T... .. Key U of L football players banished... .. Gators get head start in rejecting ACC... .. Physician admits torching dead player's medical data... .. LSU football coach survives aquatic knockout plunge... ..  More...
07.18.03:  East Carolina names new ticket operations boss... .. Dollar draws NCAA wrath... .. Athletes' rights crusader gains steam... .. Banished football program seeks new life... .. Blood clot stymies Buckeye lineman again...  More...

Signing day for East Carolina's 2003 football recruiting class was almost six months ago, but as far as the ever-vigilante Pirates coaching staff is concerned, it's never too late to add a newly discovered gem to the treasure chest.

Okmulgee (OK) High School star Eric Johnson, a versatile 6-1 205 athlete, has belatedly inked with ECU, bypassing the junior college route he was about to embark on and instead going straight to the Division I-A football ranks.

A 1,200-yard rusher as a senior, Johnson was named District offensive player of the year after a season in which he also demonstrated excellent skills as as a return specialist and linebacker/defensive back.

After starting all four years in high school, Johnson's ECU career path may include a redshirt year and will likely be focused on grooming him for a spot in the Pirates' defensive backfield.

According to his hometown newspaper, Johnson apparently earned an indelible reputation in high school for his work ethic.

"We use Eric as an example," Okmulgee coach Danny Morgan told the Okmulgee Daily Times. "When we see kids not doing something or when he walks in down there, all you got to do is say, 'Boys, if you are going to do something, you've got to work as hard as he does. He's a gifted athlete with God-given ability, but he didn't get that body on him by laying at the house... "

When he reports for duty aboard the Pirates ship on August 6, Johnson won't be the only Oklahoma native in the locker room. Senior safety Richard Moton, who came to ECU from Northeast Oklahoma A&M, is from Tulsa.

'Cuse towers above road ahead for 49ers

The tough road ahead got even more imposing for Charlotte this week. In releasing their non-conference basketball slate, the 49ers revealed that they have added a game at national champion Syracuse to an already difficult 2003-04 road schedule.

Although the team's Conference USA dates still have to be added, the 49ers roster of opponents is now complete and includes nine games against 2003 NCAA Tournament teams and two against 2003 Final Four participants.

The 49ers will play at Syracuse, Wed., Nov. 26, kicking off a string of four straight road games over 11 days. The treacherous stretch begins against the Orangemen at the Carrier Dome and travels through UNC Asheville (Nov. 30), Alabama (Dec. 3) and Old Dominion (Dec. 6).

"Once again we have a very difficult schedule," said 49ers head coach Bobby Lutz. "The road games are very demanding. Going to play Syracuse will be a good early test for our team to see where we rank, nationally. Southern Illinois is a consistent NCAA Tournament team and most people don't realize how difficult a game that is, and then you have Alabama at Alabama. If anything our road schedule is too tough..."

The 49ers will play four non-conference teams that finished last season with Top 100 RPI's, including Top 50 schools Syracuse (2), Alabama (45) and Southern Illinois (42), all of whom advanced to the NCAA Tournament, last year. Rhode Island finished last season with an RPI of 87. UNC Asheville is the other non-conference opponent that went to the NCAA's last year.

The 49ers C-USA schedule includes home dates with three 2003 NCAA teams: 2003 Final Four participant Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville as well as in-state rival East Carolina, traditional foe South Florida, Saint Louis, Tulane and UAB. Within conference play, the 49ers will play road games at Cincinnati, East Carolina, Saint Louis, DePaul, Houston, 2003 NCAA participant Memphis, Southern Miss and Texas Christian. Dates for the C-USA schedule will be released by the conference office in August.

Slive pooh-poohs ACC raid speculation

HOOVER, AL — Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive isn't concerned that one of his schools will bolt for another league in the wake of the ACC's recent expansion. Following the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East to the ACC there has been talk that more reshuffling could follow.

The Big East will need to add at least two schools to remain a conference, and the ACC has expressed interest in adding a 12th team with speculation that SEC schools Florida, Kentucky or South Carolina could be targets, but Slive says the ACC will have to look elsewhere. "The stability of the league is not an issue for us. It isn't going to happen," Slive said Tuesday at the start of SEC media days.

The conference might look into adding an exit fee requirement similar to other conferences. But Slive said the biggest deterrent is the SEC's financial strength, the proximity of the schools and the traditional rivalries. The SEC will distribute at least $102 million from the 2002-03 year — more than any other conference. Slive said the conference has no plans to add teams, either, but didn't rule out the possibility. "We need to monitor the landscape," he said. "You never say never."

Slive, formerly commissioner of Conference USA, addressed many issues in his state of the SEC address, including minority hiring, academic reform, the conference's opposition to an NFL-style playoff and reiterating his goal to have no conference school on probation within five years. Slive also set out a goal to increase minority hiring in the conference.

The ruckus being raised by Tulane president Scott Cowen and others pushing for fundamental reforms in Division I-A also drew Slive's attention. Leaders of C-USA, the Mountain West, the WAC and other leagues with aspirations for a more level playing field are demanding more equitable access to the lucrative BCS bowls. Notre Dame is the only team not from the six major conferences to play in a BCS bowl in the first five years of the system. A group from the smaller conferences, which has threatened the possibility of an antitrust suit, will meet with BCS representatives on Sept. 8 in Chicago. "The BCS has had very sound legal advice for a long time,'' Slive said. ``I don't see any antitrust issues."

The format of the BCS could be changing. Negotiations for a new deal will begin next year and athletic directors and conference commissioners are coming up with new formats. While the school presidents have ruled out a playoff, Slive said there is a chance that a championship game could be added after the bowls. In addition to access for I-A conferences which are virtually locked under the current system, one of the major issues coming up for the BCS is whether the Big East will maintain its automatic bid. Big East coaches said college football would lose credibility without a Northeast representation. One SEC official disagreed. "I don't know if the region of the country is as important as the strength of the programs," said Mark Womack, the executive associate commissioner of the SEC. "The public and the television networks will determine the support."

News Nuggets are compiled periodically from staff, ECU, Conference USA and its member schools, and from Associated Press and other reports. Copyright 2003 and other publishers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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