College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, June 12, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Realignment takes back seat
East Carolina may be playing football in the Big East
Conference in the future but new Pirates football coach John Thompson and
staff realize the task at hand is preparing to play the 2003 season in
"There's something different happening every day," Thompson
said Tuesday of what has evolved into the ACC expansion soap opera. "There's
no way to know what's going to happen. Everything is speculation on
The issue has united rivals Duke and North Carolina in
opposition to the course mapped out by former Tar Heels athletics director
and ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford. The political football in Virginia has
the Cavaliers running interference in the best interests of rival Virginia
Whoever said politics makes strange bedfellows would have
marveled at the liaisons that potential ACC expansion has created. Who will
be on which side of the fence tomorrow will be interesting to track.
But that situation lacks the urgency that preseason planning
and work does for Thompson.
"We're going to continue doing a great job of preparing for
what's going to be happening in August," Thompson said.
While players are doing summer workouts and going to summer
school, the staff has been formulating game plans.
"We've got our practice schedule ready through the Sunday
after the West Virginia game," Thompson said. "There's so much to do in
terms of organization and preparation and that's what we're working on right
"Going through this thing for the first time for everybody
together is an important task — getting everybody on the same page. The
better the preparation, the better the job you'll do and it takes away the
anxiety. You just plan and prepare and whatever comes your way, you're ready
The ECU offensive and defensive staffs already have
contingent game plans for the first two opponents — at Cincinnati on Labor
Day, Sept. 1, on one of the ESPN networks, and back home at Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium for West Virginia on Sept. 6. That was the focus last week.
"We've done more on Cincinnati but quite a bit on West
Virginia — the way that game comes back on us (short week)," Thompson said.
"We've even given Miami (Orange Bowl, Sept. 13) and Wake Forest (Groves
Stadium, Sept.20) a little bit of a look. In August, you get ready for the
— not just one game. We've spent a lot of time on Cincinnati and I'm sure
they have on us."
One aspect of North Carolina’s offense that ECU won’t have
to prepare for when the Tar Heels make their first visit to Greenville on
Oct. 11 is running back Andre Williams, whose career is over for medical
reasons. UNC announced on Wednesday that the former Northern Durham standout
will be a student coach. Junior Jacque Lewis from Elizabeth City and senior
Willie Parker from Clinton are listed one-two on the UNC depth chart at
Muse meets with C-USA board
Chancellor Dr. William V. Muse, ECU's representative on the
Conference USA board of directors, met with that group on Sunday and Monday.
"We talked about some issues of conference realignment at
some length," Muse confirmed on Tuesday after returning from Chicago. "I
think everyone is in a similar position of waiting to see what happens
between the ACC and the Big East. I think the assessment is that the lawsuit
may slow down but it won't prevent movement.
"What the Big East may do after that is uncertain but
everyone has different ideas about what might occur. Until there is an
indication, there's really nothing any of us can do. Clearly, there's a
concern at some schools and an expectation that Conference USA will be
The C-USA board met with NCAA president Myles Brand, whom
Muse said had indicated he had little idea where the expansion issue was
headed. Brand was asked by Virginia governor Mark Warner to mediate between
the ACC and Big East but Brand declined, citing the autonomy of institutions
to determine their conference alignment.
The C-USA board expressed its support for NCAA academic
“There is an NCAA proposal to determine athletic eligibility
on a semester by semester basis,” Muse said. “It would be based on passing
six hours a semester and a grade point average. The schools would certify
athletes semester by semester.”
Muse said there is also discussion about reviewing the
manner in which graduation rates are measured. The ECU chancellor said the
current rates don’t take into account transfers who leave institutions in
good academic standing to pursue professional careers and the rates don’t
include transfers who come in and graduate.
“All that’s counted is the freshmen who have come in and
graduated at your school at the end of six years,” Muse said.
At the conclusion of the board meetings, C-USA commissioner
Britton Banowsky made a statement regarding his league’s position regarding
expansion, which amounted officially to a role as involved observers.
“For many weeks, Conference USA has been actively monitoring
the circumstances involving the ACC and Big East and has been in open
communication with both conferences regarding the potential for change and
implications of that on others,” Banowsky said.
“As we concluded our meetings, we emerged with a commitment
to address these issues in an orderly and thoughtful manner and in
cooperation with the Big East and other affected conferences. It is
important to remember that we are institutions of higher learning, not
professional sports franchises, and we are rightfully held to a higher
standard in our dealings with others.”
ECU has begun to be mentioned more frequently as a possible
addition to the Big East, including comments by ESPN analyst Andy Katz that
the Pirates could be extended an invitation by the Big East regardless of
whether the ACC adds Miami, Boston College and Syracuse.
Katz and others have indicated that ECU would be preferable
to Cincinnati and Memphis to the Big East. There are possibilities that the
Big East could give Notre Dame an ultimatum to get involved in the league in
football or lose the benefits of membership in other sports.
There are scenarios with the Big East losing three teams and
adding seven, and other scenarios where the Big East stays intact and adds
teams to reach 12 for a championship in football.
A spokesman for Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said
the league wasn’t commenting on “What ifs” at this point.
Muse’s position is that he wants the Pirates to be able to
compete at the highest level in college football. Through 2005, when the
definition of the highest level may change, that would mean inclusion in the
Ideally, Muse would like for a 16-team playoff to be
instituted when the current contract of the BCS is completed in 2005.
Dennis Young, the executive director of the Pirate Club,
said he hears concerns from fans about how the domino effect of potential
ACC expansion could affect ECU.
“Our fans are concerned,” he said. “A lot of schools are
going to feel ripples. ... We’re going to keep our fingers crossed. I tell
Pirate Club members we’ve done too much not to be a player. When all the
dust settles, we will be a player.”
Pirates in summer leagues
Six East Carolina baseball players are involved in summer
Trevor Lawhorn is playing for Staunton (Va.) in the
Shenandoah Valley League. Brian Cavanaugh is playing for the Torrington
Twisters in Connecticut in the New England Baseball League. Ryan Norwood is
playing for Middletown (N.Y.) in the same league. Darryl Lawhorn is playing
for Falmouth (Mass.) in the Cape Cod League. Adam Witter is playing for
Stark County (Canton, Ohio area) in the Great Lakes League.
Closer to home, catcher Jake Smith is playing for
Thomasville in the Coastal Plains League.
Herrion at Game Four
ECU men’s basketball coach Bill Herrion was in New Jersey on
Wednesday night for Game Four of the NBA championship series. Herrion
coached Malik Rose of the San Antonio Spurs on the collegiate level at
The New Jersey Nets evened the best of seven series, 2-2.
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02/23/2007 12:40:43 AM