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Observations and Punditry

Woody's Ramblings
Monday, May 20, 2007

By Woody Peele

Clark-LeClair ready to pinch-hit for Turchin

By Woody Peele
All rights reserved.

But the devastating storm that nearly destroyed New Orleans also damaged Tulane’s Turchin Stadium, eventually forcing the conference to start looking for different accommodations.

East Carolina, which was to have hosted the 2008 tournament, suddenly found itself flip-flopping with the Green Wave and hosting the 2007 event instead.

Generally, the host school has an entire year to plan and get ready for the tournament, but East Carolina found itself in the position of having only a little more than a month for the event, which runs Wednesday through Sunday.

Four games are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, with two on Friday. Saturday’s schedule will have at least two games and possibly as many as four, with the championship game on Sunday.

East Carolina will play in the final game of the day on Wednesday.

“The conference has a 75-page manual of check lists,” Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations Scott Wetherbee said. “Some are to be completed by six months out, others by three. But when the conference called on us, we had only 45 days left.

“And they were wanting to know where we stood on the six- and three-month levels,” he added.

J.J. McLamb, Assistant Athletic Director for Administrative Affairs, agreed.

“It was short notice, but we looked at it as more of a challenge instead of a headache,” McLamb said. “We’re just treating it like five home games over five days.”

Part of the background job was lining up hotels for the other seven conference teams and the brass that will accompany them from the schools and the conference. That was accomplished in just a few days.

Sponsorships have been a little more difficult, but both McLamb and Wetherbee said that Pirate fans have come forth eagerly.

“Typically, what we would have done was to incorporate the tournament into next year’s proposals,” Wetherbee said of obtaining tournament sponsors.” That would take care of not only the tournament, but football, basketball and baseball. “Everyone has pretty much done with their budgets for the year and were looking ahead to next year, so it hasn’t been as easy as it would have been.”

Among Wetherbee’s rush jobs has been tickets. “But fans have responded well,” he said. “We’ve sold more tournament tickets than season tickets, so that’s a good indication.”

He’s also had to rush to find things like companies to sponsor hospitality and cars.

“Having run the Keith LeClair Tournament for the past two years has really helped us,” McLamb added. “But not having longer than we’ve had, you can’t just say, ‘I’ll do it next week.’”

One of the factors that has helped in getting all of the final pieces in place has been ECU's baseball schedule. The Pirates played their final regular season series at UAB, meaning most of the staff was at home getting things ready, such as painting the necessary logos on the field, and making things a little more special at Clark-LeClair Stadium for the event.

“We have to make it seem like a Conference USA event, not an ECU event,” McLamb said. “We have to equally host everybody.”

While all this is going on, Director of Media Relations Tom McClellan, has also been preparing, but not quite with the same rush.

“A lot of our area is being handled by Conference USA,” McClellan said, “things like credentials, the game program, the logistical areas.

“Most of our work will be during the tournament. (The media relations staff) will be the first ones in the press box and the last ones to leave,” he added.

Staff members will be handing different games, getting quotes, setting up post-game interviews and others as needed, handling hospitality.

“Scheduling people is going to be our No. 1 priority,” McClellan said.

Coverage, however, may not be as great as one might think.

“Conference USA has major media markets and baseball is sometimes a hard sell,” McClellan said. “We expect one writer from Houston, doing double duty for Houston and Rice; one from Southern Miss; and maybe one from Florida. With the troubles they’ve had in New Orleans, we’ll be lucky to get one from there.

“So we’re not talking about a lot of media people with the exception of each of the schools having radio, and even that isn’t a lock.”

Of course, McClellan expects a lot of media covering the home team.

“Obviously, East Carolina is the bell-cow because of the local interest,” he said.

That would call for a number of television and print media conferences.
There will some national television exposure, with CSTV, which will cover the championship game of Sunday.

“We’ll do everything we can to accommodate them,” McClellan said.

Tulane and New Orleans will have to wait another year to host the tournament, but East Carolina knows, to some extent, what people there are going through as they remember Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd which caused wide-spread flooding throughout eastern Carolina.

For ECU, putting on a good show could lead to other things — like hosting an NCAA regional at Clark-LeClair.

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05/21/2007 01:56:55 AM

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