College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, June 19, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Where are you, Governor
Good luck to Governor Mark Warner of Virginia if he decides
to run for re-election. In looking after Virginia Tech, he may have
alienated the true feelings of the constituency at the University of
Good thing for the Atlantic Coast Conference that William &
Mary and Richmond don’t play Division I-A football or the once-affluent and
hell-bent-for-expanding league might have even more mouths to feed.
that a surprising option
not involving Virginia
Tech is also under
At least the ACC expansion wasn’t ultimately about money.
Associated Press sources reported Wednesday night that the league would move
to add Miami, Syracuse, Boston College —
and, surprise, Virginia Tech — to get a swing vote from
Virginia president John Chasteen in favor of expansion.
The greed that dominated the early stages of the far-ranging
soap opera was replaced by a grasp for pride, although to the objective
public it might look more like some sort of ridiculous comic relief. That
sudden drone in the background may have been the Big East Conference heading
into a nosedive.
It turned out ultimately to be a face-saving move by the
ACC, which apparently determined that dividing the financial pie 13 ways is
more appealing than splitting it nine ways with pie on your face — the dire
consequence from a failed attempt at super conference status.
There also were reports that the league could add
Connecticut for an even 14 members. If those reports are accurate, they
could then add Larry and Curley and call it the 16 Stooges.
A school of thought obviously emerged that the best
conference would have teams in desirable television markets but that’s not
what really makes leagues great. The Southeastern Conference isn’t
marketable because it commands the television markets of Starkville, Miss.,
Auburn, Ala., or Knoxville, Tenn.
The Big 12 won’t have a revenue pool approaching $85 million
next year because it went out and attracted the TV markets of Waco and
Lubbock, Texas, at its last expansion.
The SEC and the Big 12 are superb, financially opulent
examples of super conference success stories and are supposedly the models
for the ACC’s expansion plan. But those two leagues are winners at the bank
because of their regional rivalries, a point that has been missed in the
ACC's poorly-executed strategy.
Good luck getting a ticket on any given football Saturday
for the in-state or border SEC rivalries — Alabama-Auburn, Florida-Georgia
or ’Bama-Tennessee, just the start of that list of great matchups.
Here’s what’s wrong with the ACC’s original idea. Miami is
closer to Havana, Cuba, than its closest potential ACC opponent, which is
Florida State. Syracuse and Boston College also present major obstacles in
terms of generating any sense of regional emotion in regard to the ACC’s
Putting television first is putting the cart before the
horse. You start by building something fans will watch instead of assembling
something you hope television will buy.
Full stadiums with bragging rights on the line have long
been a formula for television interest. I’m still mystified as to who’s
going to show up to watch Boston College against anybody in the current ACC.
Who for that matter wants to see their team mauled by Miami? No atmosphere
there. Fans would be gone by halftime.
If the ACC wanted to go to 12 teams to enable a football
championship and play before capacity crowds that create the kind of
electric atmosphere that television craves, then it should have added East
Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
That’s ECU, Virginia Tech and West Virginia instead of
Miami, Syracuse and Boston College. Such a move would have nullified the Big
East lawsuit and the process could have been done in such a manner as to
leave no grounds for future legal action.
Let Casteen find political grounds to oppose that. Let the
folks at North Carolina question those geographic parameters.
president Nan Keohane draw up the divisions if that’s her hang-up.
ACC commissioner Johnny Swofford could be assured that with
the numerous additional rivalries inherent in such an alignment that his
television revenue would increase. Fans in the stands translate into viewers
in the living room. I’ve seen enough ECU-State games and Carolina-ECU games to know it would work.
Virginia-West Virginia made the first Continental Tire Bowl
Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte would still be a great place
to play the multi-million dollar league championship game.
I know Boston College is in a big television market but I
also know Boston is a pro sports town.
Heck, Rutgers is in the New York market but that has hardly
translated into anything approaching desirable status for the Scarlet
There are ACC and ECU people who tell me the Pirates will
never be invited into the ACC. Too bad. Excluding ECU is a losing
proposition for both entities.
Someone did the math with Miami, Syracuse and Boston College
and figured that it might not work. Unfortunately, that school of thought
appears to be in the minority.
Maybe if North Carolina governor Mike Easley had something
to do besides wreck race cars, purge a crooked state cabinet or pump the red
ink out of the lungs of the state budget, he could have made a case for the
Pirates as his Commonwealth counterpart did for the Hokies.
Bringing ECU into the ACC would remove that famous Pirate
“chip” because ECU would finally be competing as an equal. That’s probably a
repugnant prospect to ACC traditionalists, but a new Big Five would be
bigger in North Carolina than the old Big Four.
People say ECU is behind in basketball but I think they
already outdraw Florida State. And how many ACC schools beat a Final Four
team last season as the Pirates did in knocking off Marquette?
This is the 21st century, ACC. Think outside the box. Step
up to the plate. Overcome the fear factor. Beef up the security and print
the tickets, baby. You might find out ECU fans are decent people for the
most part — contrary to what your daddy might have told you. There might be
some similar revelations regarding the Hokies and Mountaineers vis-a-vis
Hey, ACC, if you’re going to go full throttle into college
sports for the financial rewards, then you might as well do it right. Don’t
let the New York TV suits sell you a bill of goods. You might lose your
shirts with Miami, Syracuse and Boston College. Put together a product with
bigger grassroots fan appeal and TV will buy their way in for a 12:07 p.m.
ECU, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. That’s the answer. Or
Now the question may be how quickly the ACC can get a
visitation committee to Blacksburg.
C-USA future has potential,
Where does this leave East Carolina? Still in Conference USA
probably, since the Big East may be fatally gutted as a football league.
That may end up favorably for the Pirates. C-USA may have the best chance to
salvage the remainder of the football-playing Big East by adding Pitt and
West Virginia. That could save ECU an exit fee from C-USA and an entrance
fee to the Big East had the dominos fallen differently in the ACC.
Cut out the football dead wood in C-USA, let its basketball
schools merge with the remainder of the Big East and you have a relatively
compact C-USA, strengthened for football and possibly suited to be more of a
factor when the current bowl championship series contract expires after
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02/23/2007 12:40:44 AM