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Watch for Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Tuesday, August 3, 2004

By Al Myatt

Accord evolving on championship showdown

Filed from the
Conference USA
Football Kickoff


MEMPHIS — One issue emerging from the last meeting of Conference USA CEOs in June was whether the league would hold a football championship game in 2005.

Although detractors point out that it could possibly knock an unbeaten C-USA team out of contention for a slot in the expanded bowl championship series, commissioner Britton Banowsky said Monday evening in Memphis that he thinks the league will move forward with a league championship matchup in football.

Banowsky said the league had already been split into East and West divisions for football and a title game seemed to be the sentiment of the majority.

"Given the direction we're headed, a championship game seems to be a natural," said Banowsky, who has been on the job for 18 months, moving the league office from Chicago to the Dallas area during his tenure.

Given C-USA's imminent membership transition, Dallas makes a lot more sense from a geographic standpoint than the Windy City. Chicago-based DePaul is among the school's which will exit after the 2004-05 scholastic year.

C-USA will be in better position to develop its football identity after the pending exodus, which will see the departure of hoops powers Charlotte, Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and Saint Louis. Texas Christian and South Florida are also leaving along with football member Army.

"Conference USA has been a basketball conference," Banowsky said. "There's always been a little tug of war between basketball and football. Now we are more unified in our identity to move forward with all of our members playing football."

East Carolina will be in the East Division of the emerging alignment, according to Banowsky, and it appears to be a challenging football grouping with Central Florida under new coach George O'Leary, former MAC power Marshall, strengthening Memphis, always tough Southern Miss and ECU nemesis UAB joining the Pirates.

Houston, Rice, Southern Methodist, Texas-El Paso, Tulane and Tulsa will comprise the West Division.

The last C-USA television contract included a provision for ESPN/ABC to televise a football championship game.

Callaway ERC Drivers

Pirates coach John Thompson has voiced his support for a football championship game as a recruiting enticement and a means of exposure for the league.

"We want to play for championships," Thompson said. "That's something our players want to do."

One C-USA official said the potential site of a C-USA title game in football has only been discussed in general terms, such as whether it should be held at the home of a predetermined division champion or be played on a neutral field.

Holding the game at the home facility of a division winner would ensure attendance from that team's fans. A neutral site might be more appealing for travel-minded fans and would be fairer from a competition standpoint.

The league basketball tournament has not yet been moved out of a city that is the home of a league member because of the built-in fan support that such locations guarantee.

C-USA institution leaders, including ECU chancellor Dr. Steve Ballard, convene again this month and are expected to further define the football championship issue.

Briefs from the links

The Auto Zone Liberty Bowl hosted a superball golf tournament at Ridgewood Country Club in Germantown on Monday with morning and afternoon sessions. The event has been held in past years at Colonial Country Club in Memphis and the TPC Southwind, which have hosted the Danny Thomas St. Jude Classic on the PGA Tour. ... TPC Southwind is undergoing some renovations so the event was moved about 25 miles to the southeast to the nice Ridgewood layout. ... My team of Bill, Chuck, Jason and Todd was 11-under par, which tied for first in the second flight, but we missed winning a DVD player in a scorecard playoff. ... The team of Memphis coach Tommy West was third in the third flight and the team of South Florida coach Jim Levitt was third in the second flight. ... Levitt got some razzing at a banquet following the golf tournament because he had gotten lost on the way to the course and wound up in Arkansas. ... ECU coach John Thompson sat with C-USA director of football officials Gerald Austin during dinner. Maybe JT is hoping he won't get any first bounce touchdowns awarded to the opposition as during overtime of last year's South Florida game. ... UAB sports information director Norm Reilly, who formerly held that post at ECU, was not expected to attend today's C-USA football media function at the Memphis Marriott because of the death of his mother. Aaron Jordan, who formerly worked at ECU and now assists Reilly at UAB, will represent the Blazers. ... Coach Thompson, linebacker Chris Moore and running back Marvin Townes from ECU will be on hand today to offer their thoughts to C-USA media. ... Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower did not participate in the golf event or attend the dinner because of the death of his father last week. ... At a post dinner auction to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a portrait of Tiger Woods brought $2,000. A round of golf for four with Shaun Micheel went for $3,500. ... Bobby Ross was on hand. This will be his first year as coach at Army and the last for the Cadets in C-USA.


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02/23/2007 12:46:12 AM

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