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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, March 1, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Meaning of BCS's move up in the air


The Bowl Championship Series is expanding with a fifth bowl game after meeting in Miami Beach with the Coalition for Athletics Reform led by Tulane president Scott Cowen.

How much of a victory this is for “have not” leagues such as Conference USA is subject to debate.

The pending addition of a fifth bowl may have been driven as much by the desire of several bowls below the BCS plateau to move up to major player status as it was from pressure by Cowen’s group, which counts East Carolina among the schools it represents.

The champions of six BCS conferences — Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 — will maintain automatic berths in one of the five BCS games, according to an Associated Press report.

The new system will have four at-large berths, two more than at present, to be decided by a formula that will factor in national rankings. The fifth bowl will apparently join the BCS lineup after the current BCS contract runs out. The AP report said that will take place before a new BCS contract goes into effect before the 2007 season.

The Fiesta, Rose, Orange and Sugar presently comprise the BCS rotation. The Orange Bowl is scheduled to host the 2004 BCS championship game.

The BCS bowls generate more than $110 million a year for the conferences whose champions have an automatic berth. The BCS gives about $6 million a year to smaller conferences. Frohnmayer said, according to the AP report, the money to non-BCS leagues will increase.

Whether the increase amounts to more than a few extra crumbs for C-USA, the Mountain West, et al, compared to the cash flow to the “have” conferences will also be a factor in measuring how successful Cowen’s coalition has been in closing the competitive gap in college football.

One of the stated functions of the BCS system was to avoid the split national champion scenario that had occasionally resulted in the major polls prior to its inception. The system failed in 2003 with LSU winning the BCS title and Southern California finishing atop the AP poll.

The AD search

The search committee for the athletics director’s position at ECU convened near the Raleigh-Durham Airport to interview candidates Friday and Saturday. The field had been screened from applications. The committee apparently did not employ a consultant firm, which are often used to identify candidates in this type of hiring process.

The intent of the search at this point is to narrow the field to several candidates. When the new chancellor has been determined, possibly as soon as mid-March, the selection process will resume under the new chancellor’s direction.

The field of candidates outlined in Friday’s column contains potential hires from within and outside the ECU community. All factors being equal in the interview process, the committee is thought to favor those with ECU ties in narrowing its list.

Richard McDuffie, current Eastern Illinois AD, is an ECU graduate. Jeff Barber, Gamecock Club director at South Carolina, interviewed well, according to one source, and is an ECU grad. The candidacy of Nick Floyd, who is serving as interim AD, was boosted by calls of support to committee members from Mike Slive, commissioner of the SEC. Floyd worked in the C-USA office under Slive when Slive was the C-USA commissioner.

There are those who were impressed by the youthful enthusiasm of Oklahoma assistant AD Rick Hart, the son of former ECU AD Dave Hart, now AD at Florida State. The personable older Hart was extremely popular with some power brokers in the ECU community during his time in Greenville and a lot of the father can apparently be seen in the son.

Dennis Young’s ties to ECU probably shouldn’t be underestimated. An alumnus who played in the football program, Young’s work in fund-raising as executive director of the Pirate Club has enabled much of the impressive facility development that has taken place in the last 12 years. Young has some influential backing and is motivated by devotion to his alma mater regardless of the role in which he is serving. His background in accounting gives Young some of the business acumen that the AD position demands. The result of his candidacy may ultimately be determined by an evaluation of how his talents may best serve the university. Make him AD and you lose an effective leader for the fund-raising arm. One doesn’t exist without the other and Young is a proven commodity in his present position.

Former Indiana AD Clarence Doninger interviewed well, according to one source. He has a law degree and is the only one of the known candidates who has experience as an AD at a Division I-A program. But, he has no ECU connection.

Maryland assistant AD Joe Hull and Wichita State AD Jim Schaus lack the extra credit of direct ties to ECU and appear to be darkhorses to advance to the final round of interviews with the new chancellor.

Successful LeClair Tournament

The first annual Keith LeClaIr Invitational was successful on several fronts, not the least of which was bringing together friends of the former Pirates baseball coach, stricken by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2002, for the celebration of his 38th birthday on Saturday.

In addition to that, the event was well attended, pointing up the need for the new stadium which will be constructed for next year. The tournament also allowed the Pirates to showcase their potential in a pair of wins over nationally-ranked Clemson, a program that dogged the Pirates 21-1 in the NCAA Tournament in 2002. Two wins over the Tigers and two wins over Georgia Southern indicate that ECU, now 12-0, is deserving of moving into the national rankings.

Although the field for next year’s LeClair Invitational is subject to change, as evidenced by the apparent withdrawal of Western Carolina this year, the list of potential participants in 2005 is impressive — Ohio State, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona State, Clemson, Georgia Southern and the Pirates. ... If you build it, they will come.

The travel factor

The point has been made before that ECU’s men’s basketball team flies commercially to many of its road games. This is in contrast to many of Conference USA’s elite programs which either charter or have their own jets for transportation.

“Certain teams at the top have advantages,” said ECU coach Bill Herrion. “There’s no need to complain. There’s not much we can do about it. It’s part of the deal.”

Sometimes the Pirates have had to bus to Raleigh-Durham for flights.

The ECU football program flies charter from the Greenville airport the day before games and generally returns to Greenville the night of its games.

The hoops Pirates, winners of three straight, leave Tuesday for a Wednesday night game in Milwaukee against Marquette. The team will fly out of Greenville to Charlotte for a connecting flight to their destination. They’ll fly back Thursday and leave Friday for Hattiesburg, Miss., where they meet Southern Miss in the final regular season game on Saturday. They fly back to Greenville on Sunday.

If the Pirates make the C-USA Tournament field, they will be playing in Cincinnati on Wednesday, March 10.

The travel situation is cumbersome. It’s tough enough to win on the road under the best of conditions, not to mention missed class time and its consequences for student-athletes. The upside may be frequent flyer miles.

One question for potential ADs might be how they would improve the travel situation for basketball.

Spring time means football

It should feel like spring today and Tuesday.

Although the change of seasons won’t be official on the calendar until later in the month, ECU starts “spring” football workouts on Tuesday with a number of interesting offensive subplots at work. Among those are a new system under the direction of new offensive coordinator Noah Brindise and competition at quarterback with returners Desmond Robinson and James Pinkney and Florida transfer Patrick Dosh. Brindise is intent on emphasizing the dual abilities of running backs Art Brown and Marvin Townes, a pair of 1,000-plus yard rushers.

A high school coaches clinic is coming up this weekend featuring University of Miami (Fla.) quarterbacks coach Dan Werner. For information, call the ECU football office at (252) 328-4570.

The spring game is Saturday, March 27.

Coach John Thompson and most of the staff went through spring ball at ECU last season.

“We know where we need to get better and we know our players,” Thompson said.

Will it be the Bulldogs?

A report from a television station in the Louisiana Tech market has apparently indicated the Bulldogs will be offered the slot in Conference USA being vacated by Texas Christian. Louisiana Tech has agreed on conditions for C-USA membership that include expanding the capacity of its football stadium and increasing its athletic budget, according to the report.

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02/23/2007 12:45:12 AM

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