Gridiron Pirates set sail
for Big East
Fellow C-USA member
Tulane accepts all-sports invite
From staff reports
All rights reserved.
After two decades of
trying to wedge its way into the Big East Conference, East Carolina
finally succeeded on Tuesday, accepting an invitation to become a
football-playing member of the league starting with the 2014 season.
The announcement came in a late
afternoon campus press conference involving ECU Chancellor Steve
Ballard and Director of Athletics Terry Holland, with Big East
Commissioner Mike Aresco and Chair of the Big East Board of
Directors Judy Genshaft joining in by teleconference. Genshaft
is President of Big East member South Florida.
"ECU is excited to become a
football member of the Big East Conference," ECU Chancellor
Steve Ballard said in a statement issued in conjunction with the
press conference. "We know we will be successful and add value
to the Big East."
Ballard praised the efforts of
Holland and Executive Associate AD Nick Floyd in bringing about
the opportunity for the Pirates to join the Big East.
"It is a great day to be a
Pirate," Ballard added.
In an ECU release announcing the
move of its football team to the Big East, Holland addressed the
priority the school is placing on lining up a new league for its
"It is our intention for todayís
announcement to be a strong first step toward finding the best
competitive environment possible for ECUís nineteen varsity
sports," stated Holland, who is expected to embark immediately
on an aggressive push to find those other teams a home.
Speculation on potential league
affiliation for the Pirates' other sports has included the
Atlantic-10, Southern Conference and Colonial Athletic
Association. ECU has historical ties to both the Southern
Conference and Colonial Athletic Association, having put in a
lengthy membership stint in each.
Holland noted that the Pirates'
association with Conference USA began on the gridiron.
"A football-only membership
provided ECUís gateway to an all sports membership in C-USA and
a number of other successful programs, including Virginia Tech,
received their opportunity through a football-only membership in
the Big East," Holland said.
Aresco's statement welcoming the
Pirates to the Big East highlighted ECU's merits on the gridiron
and in the classroom.
"... They have a strong football
tradition and a consistently successful program that will help
elevate our football league immediately," Aresco said. "The
University is an outstanding academic institution that reflects
the values important to the Big East Conference."
Holland observed that the Pirates'
new league will include a number of familiar names.
"Big East football provides an
opportunity to renew old rivalries and begin new ones, both of
which will be exciting for our players, coaches and fans," he
Joining the Pirates in the Big
East will be fellow Conference USA member Tulane, which accepted
an all-sports invitation to the league on Tuesday.
Conference USA Commissioner
Britton Banowsky was gracious in his reaction to the schools'
impending departures and expressed confidence that C-USA will
successfully navigate the changing landscape in college sports.
""We thank East Carolina and
charter member Tulane for all their contributions to the league
and wish them well," Banowsky said in a statement. "These are
unprecedented times in higher education. Notwithstanding the
changes, we are excited about our future and we remain committed
to our strategic plan ó a major market, two-division conference
that is student-athlete friendly."
ECU and the Green Wave will be
reuniting with a number of schools that have departed or soon
will depart C-USA for the Big East.
Former C-USA members Cincinnati,
Louisville and South Florida are all-sports members of the Big
East, having joined the conference in 2005. Current C-USA
members Central Florida, Houston, Memphis and Southern Methodist
will enter the league in all sports in 2013.
A pair of teams which ECU has
played in recent years, Boise State and Navy, will join the Big
East for football only in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
San Diego State, a school which
ECU has never faced on the gridiron, will accompany Boise State,
UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU into the Big East in 2013.
Temple, a current member of the
Big East in other sports, will become a football-playing member
Other all-sports members of the
Big East are Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse.
Three of those schools ó Pitt and Syracuse (to the Atlantic
Coast Conference in 2013) and Rutgers (to the Big Ten) ó are
departing for other conferences.
UConn, Cincinnati and Louisville
are considered to be prime membership targets of other
conferences, including the ACC and Big 12.
East Carolina's pursuit of
affiliation with the Big East began two decades ago. Former
Athletic Director Dave Hart pushed aggressively for membership
during his tenure with the Pirates.
In his live remarks during
Tuesday's press conference, Aresco recalled that during his days
as an ESPN executive that he and Hart successfully negotiated a
contract for ECU, then an independent, to have a number of its
games televised on the network.
Hart's successor, Mike Hamrick,
downplayed the practicality of ECU seeking membership in the Big
East during his eight years at the helm from 1995 to 2003.
But the effort picked up steam
when then newly-named Chancellor Ballard tabbed Holland to take
charge of ECU athletics in 2004. Holland's relentless,
eight-year undertaking bore results with Tuesday's announcement.
The Big East's addition of ECU and
Tulane is not expected to be the league's last move to fortify
itself in the wake of multiple waves of defections in recent
years. The Big East has courted Air Force, Brigham Young and
Army and may also have its sights on an additional Conference
11/28/12 06:53 AM.
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