College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Friday, April 30, 2004
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
League's new flavor produces
dilemma for palate
Conference USA should fill out its dance card for 2005-06 and beyond if the
CEOs of its future membership follow the evaluations of its athletics
directors and put the rubber stamp of approval on Texas-El Paso in a
conference call today.
The short list being considered for an invitation as the league’s 12th
member apparently included Louisiana Tech and North Texas but the Miners
looked to be the best choice based on their athletics budget and facilities.
Temple would have been a good fit for ECU geographically and is located in
the Philadelphia market. But that star above the C-USA logo apparently
stands for the Lone Star state.
Several prospective programs from the MAC must have said, “Thanks, but no
Commissioner Britton Banowsky never moved from Dallas to the league office
in Chicago and now that the league’s footprint no longer includes the Windy
City, with DePaul ticketed to the Big East, C-USA will make its future home
office in Big D.
No league has been affected to a greater extent by the procession of
dominoes emanating from the ACC’s grab of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston
College than C-USA.
With Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul migrating
to the Big East, plus Charlotte and Saint Louis leaving for the Atlantic 10,
and TCU deciding that the grass is greener in the Mountain West, the league
will soon look like it has undergone plastic surgery. Football only member
Army, of course, started the ball rolling by announcing it was returning to
There are nine programs leaving, which is 60 percent of the current
membership. The Big East shrieked and filed lawsuits when it lost just three
of its members to the ACC’s raid then proceeded to beckon five from C-USA.
So what’s emerging is an Eastern and Western Division with six teams each
that will allow C-USA to stage a football championship game. The Western
Division bears a resemblance to a poor man’s version of the old Southwestern
Conference with Rice, Houston, SMU, UTEP, Tulsa and Tulane.
The East would likely include ECU, Southern Miss, Memphis and UAB from
C-USA’s current membership plus new additions Marshall and Central Florida,
which came aboard from the MAC with C-USA’s initial replenishment. There
appear to be no football Saturdays off for the Pirates in that potential
Despite its dramatic shift in membership, C-USA will still remain severely
challenged in terms of understanding real barbecue, an issue ECU fans can
sink their teeth into.
Basketball-wise, the Pirates should be more competitive in the new C-USA
with virtually all of the national powers on their way out. Baseball may get
tougher with Rice, the 2003 NCAA champion, entering the picture. Outdoor
sports in general should get a boost of sorts with more warm
weather as the league’s epicenter moves to the southwest.
Revenue streams will certainly be challenged. NCAA men’s basketball
tournament shares are likely to take a hit. It’s hard to be optimistic about
television demand for the new league in football or basketball. There are
still no practical bus rides in the league for the Pirates and that means
significant travel costs continue.
It may be easy for the ECU community to be myopic with a football program
still feeling fallout from a coaching transition, changes across the board
in the university’s academic and athletic administration, and a baseball
team that looks capable of realizing a longtime goal of getting to Omaha.
But C-USA is changing dramatically. It is what it is and it’s ECU’s home for
the foreseeable future. It’s imperative that the Pirates and the league
adapt as well as possible and move forward.
Maybe those Texas folks will even learn something about real barbecue.
Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.
Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville
02/23/2007 12:45:31 AM