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View from the 'ville
Thursday, November 20, 2008

By Al Myatt

Obama lobbies for playoff system

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Some heavyweight support has lined up on each side of the college football playoff issue in recent days.

The Bowl Championship Series is expected to finalize a deal with ESPN that would put the BCS games on the cable television sports network giant from 2011 to 2014.

The Fox network has had rights to the BCS games, other than the Rose Bowl, since 2007, and its agreement with the BCS extends through 2010. The potential deal between the BCS and ESPN is viewed as a major obstacle for playoff proponents for the duration of that agreement.

President-elect Barack Obama is among those who feel the current system should be replaced.

"We should be creating a playoff system," Obama said recently on "60 Minutes."

Obama favors the implementation of an eight-team playoff.

This writer's preference is for a 16-team playoff that involves all of the conference champions plus selected at-large teams. The existing major bowls could host various games in a playoff format on a rotating basis.

The bowl system is archaic. Too many deserving teams are ultimately left out of contention for a national title. At the moment there are five unbeaten teams and just two slots in the BCS title game.

East Carolina coach Skip Holtz has said he would like to see a playoff format in the highest level of college football. The current system has created a caste system of "haves" and "have nots."

Guaranteed access to the BCS games in the power conferences means sizeable financial rewards. The unequal distribution of resources in the bowl subdivision has created a chasm between those in BCS conferences and those who are not, according to Holtz and others.

Those favoring a playoff point out that true champions are generated on the championship subdivision, Division II and Division III levels.

Obama would like to level the playing field in the current bowl subdivision, bringing to playoff partisans a whole new meaning of his campaign slogan, "The change we need."

There surely are more urgent issues for him to deal with but regardless of how you feel about his stances on other matters, the President-elect may have a positive impact for the oppressed in the college football bowl subdivision.

True champions coming to town

East Carolina will renew its rivalry with Appalachian State, the reigning championship subdivision champions, on Sept. 5 next season at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The programs will meet for the first time since a 38-21 ECU win in Boone in 1979.

"Although this is a single-game contract with Appalachian State for the 2009 season only, it is my hope that this game will be a springboard for a great in-state rivalry in the future," said ECU athletic director Terry Holland when the matchup was announced last month. "The Mountaineers have proven their ability to compete against the very best programs in the area and in the nation."

The Pirate AD moved a home game with N.C. State from 2009 to 2010, creating a void that ASU will fill. Holland said ECU will have six homes games in both 2009 and 2010.

Appalachian currently is bidding for a fourth straight championship subdivision title. Its win at Michigan in its 2007 season opener grabbed the attention of the nation.

In a way, the 2009 game between ASU and ECU offers the opportunity to confirm the Pirates' decision to become a major independent and leave the Southern Conference after winning the 1976 conference title.

The Apps remained in the Southern Conference and have become the league's dominant program. ECU closed out the 1970's with four straight wins over the Mountaineers but trails the series, which began in 1932, by a margin of 19-10.

The immediate challenge

The Pirates face a huge game against UAB on Saturday night at Legion Field in Birmingham. A win assures ECU of a berth in the Conference USA championship game on Dec. 6.

The Pirates haven't won a league title in football since capturing the Southern Conference in 1976. The most pressing issue facing ECU as it seeks to end a streak of road futility against the Blazers is resurrecting its offensive point production, which has fallen like the stock market in recent weeks.

The Pirates are 0-3 against UAB at Legion Field.

"We're approaching it like a one-game season," said Pirates coach Skip Holtz. "We've got to find a way to win this one. I'm trying to stay away from the big picture right now because I think we've got way too much to look at in-house to start looking outside."

As the Pirates survey the internal scene, there are a myriad of injuries to overcome and an offense to jumpstart that managed just three points in a 21-3 loss at Southern Miss. Holtz expects his team to respond with resilience with the potential reward that would come with a win.

"I don't think anybody is hanging his head over the loss," Holtz said. "I think everybody is very determined. We continue to talk about the growth of this program and how we're trying to build it year in and year out. We're still in a position to achieve a lot of the goals that we had said we wanted to achieve at the beginning of the season."

With the calendar approaching the end of November, the Pirates can still accomplish some of their goals from August. That has resulted in a sense of determination and urgency for this week's game.

"There are a lot of people playing who don't have a chance at a bowl game and don't have anything to say about their conference," Holtz said. "They're just trying to play the role of spoiler. There are a few teams that are still trying to fight and play for something. There are 12 conference champions in the country out of 119 Division I teams. There are not a whole of teams with two games left that still have something to play for. Right now the attitude of this team is extremely high."

Hoops off to 3-0 start

East Carolina topped Campbell 86-65 on Wednesday night as James Legan scored 24 points and Brock Young added 18, both career highs. The Pirates host George Mason on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

"We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different people, which is what we have to have," said ECU coach Mack McCarthy after the win over the Camels. "The negative of the night was that we didn't do the things we needed to do defensively.

"We let them drive it and get to the rim too much and have too many second shots. We have to clean that up before we become a better basketball team. Our effort is good, our intentions are good, but our execution is not where it needs to be."

Campbell outrebounded the Pirates, 42-37.

Pirate needs a parrot

Bonesville reader Brad Hufford writes with a proposal that the Pirates' costumed mascots carry a parrot on their shoulder as some pirates have been portrayed.

"There is a parrot that is purple-ish in color that would be perfect," he states.

Hufford also has a name for the parrot — Chip.

That way, Hufford explains, the Pirates would always have a "Chip" on their shoulder.

Hufford's idea is a different approach to a concept that has been carried out independently for at least the last two football seasons. ECU student Kevin Walters of Raleigh assumes his Pirate persona and roams the stands in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium each game day with a stuffed parrot perched on his shoulder. Sporting meticulously applied purple and gold body paint and wearing buccaneer regalia, Walters races from section to section rallying the purple partisans.

Editor's note: Danny Whitford contributed to this article.

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11/20/2008 03:21:39 AM


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