Omaha has had some history as a
land of opportunity for programs playing outside the plush
resources enjoyed by teams from the conferences with automatic
qualifiers to college football's Bowl Championship Series
Rice won the College World Series in 2003, Cal State-Fullerton
captured the prize in 2004 and Fresno State emerged with the
NCAA baseball title in 2008.
There were no such Cinderellas
in 2011. None of the so-called mid-majors, which includes
Conference USA and East Carolina, survived the Super Regionals.
This year's field of North
Carolina, Vanderbilt, Texas, Florida, California, Virginia,
South Carolina and Texas A&M were all members of the power
conferences. That's three from the Southeastern Conference, two
from the Atlantic Coast Conference, two from the Big 12 and one
from the Pac 10, which incidentally became the Pac-12 with
expansion on Friday.
ECU has been working diligently
to enhance its appeal for inclusion in a power conference's
Funds from the lucrative BCS
can help pay coaches' salaries, build better facilities and
fatten recruiting budgets — all factors which can impact the
success of an overall athletic program.
The Pirates have determined
that basketball is the weak entry on their overall resume. The
working theory of many observers is that more consistent success
in hoops could culminate in an invitation from the Big East is
the theory. That casts ECU's efforts to follow up on last
season's 18-16 record on the hardwood in a new light. Continued
hoops progress appears to be as important to baseball success —
given the exclusively BCS composition of the CWS in 2011 — as
coach Billy Godwin's efforts to replenish the Pirate pitching
ECU is working on basketball.
Coach Jeff Lebo appears to be laying a good foundation for the
future, and fundraising for a new practice facility definitely
is coming together. The situation looks promising and there is a
dynamic evolving in another realm that could have significance
for the Pirates and their situation of virtual exclusion from
The U.S. Justice Department has
been asking questions regarding the BCS's status in terms of
possible antitrust violation. BCS executive director Bill
Hancock reportedly met with some Justice Department
representatives last Thursday.
The Salt Lake Tribune has
reported that Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff plans to file
an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS this fall.
The newspaper stated that, "The
lawsuit will seek damages for so-called ‘non-BCS schools’ that
have lost out on millions of dollars over the years because the
existing system keeps such non-preferred conferences such as the
Mountain West — Utah’s former conference home — at a competitive
disadvantage, Shurtleff has said.
"Under the current system,
conference champions from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten,
Big 12, (Pac-12) and Southeastern Conference get automatic bids
to five BCS bowls, while teams from leagues such as the MWC,
(C-USA) and Western Athletic Conference ... must meet more
difficult criteria to qualify for one of the more lucrative
Hancock has expressed
confidence that the BCS is not in violation of antitrust
I remain among those who would
like to see a 16-team playoff in college football with the
conference champions in the NCAA's highest division. At-large
teams would complete the bracket. Conduct the playoff within the
present bowl structure and leave other existing bowls as a
reward for programs who don't make the playoffs.
Restructuring the current
system in football could have broader implications in terms of
competitiveness in other sports as well, or perhaps ECU
basketball will improve to the extent that a power conference
will absorb the Pirates.
Either scenario could be
beneficial to ECU.
Godwin glances back, thinks
ECU went 41-21 in baseball in
2011 and 14-10 in Conference USA for third place in the league.
"Looking back, winning 41
games, the conference we're in and the schedule we played, that
is certainly gratifying," said Pirates coach Billy Godwin. "At
the same time, we're nowhere near satisfied because we want to
play in the College World Series. That's still our goal.
"I was pleased with a lot of
things. I was pleased with the way we played down the stretch,
particularly starting with going to Tulane, sweeping there. We
played well in the conference tournament. Getting in a (NCAA)
regional and going 2-2. It only ends good for one team, when
it's all said and done.
"At the same time, all that we
do and turning the page, now we're out recruiting and getting
our incoming recruits in. We've still got Omaha in the big
The Pirates have a lot of
pitching to replace.
"We have a chance to lose 350
innings out of 540, I think," Godwin said. "We have some
experienced guys back, guys who threw some big games with Kevin
(Brandt), Shawn (Armstrong) possibly, which we anticipate he'll
return. Joseph Hughes pitched some big innings for us. We think
(Austin) Chrismon in a regular year on a regular staff would
have thrown 50 to 70 innings. He just got kind of bogged down
but he threw really well for us when he did throw.
"We've got some guys we're
excited about returning who are ready to take a step up who have
done some good things. We also have five of our incoming
recruits who were pitchers who were drafted. They're the kind of
arms we've got to get to campus. We've got talent and help on
the way, but somebody else also thinks they're pretty good, too.
We've got to kind of battle through that this summer like a lot
of good programs do."
The deadline for players to
sign pro contracts is August 15.
"Within the last month and a
half, I've been in every one of their living rooms, from Albany,
New York, to Sneads Ferry, North Carolina," Godwin said. "They
all have, from A to Z, something different they're looking for.
It's an individual deal. I personally feel good about it but I'm
an optimistic person. We could lose a guy or two.
"The thing we do when we go in
there is we kind of resell school, East Carolina, the value of
an education, pitching at East Carolina, pitching in the
environment. We feel like our level of play is the equivalent of
Double-A, which they may not reach until they would be out of
school. ... We think we play at a high A to Double-A level,
brand of baseball. They're all the things we're pushing. One
thing we don't have is money. I think all the kids I met with
are very serious about their commitment, their educational
commitment to come to East Carolina but they also have an asking
price. We're just going to monitor that until the 15th of
No excuses on NCAA draw
East Carolina was the No. 2
seed for the Charlottesville regional, which featured Virginia,
the top-seed in the 64-team field, as the No. 1 seed. The
Pirates made the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in Godwin's
six-year tenure. ECU holds the distinction of being the last
team to knock South Carolina out of the NCAA Tournament in a
dramatic regional final
in Greenville in 2009.
The seedings have the greatest
significance in the regionals and super regionals because there
is a home field advantage involved. Once teams make it to Omaha
for the CWS, that is essentially a neutral field.
"There's a pronounced advantage
for anybody that hosts," Godwin said. "It reiterates the fact of
how important it is to host. I'm not a guy who points fingers. I
point the thumb. We need to play well enough that we can host.
I've said that. The one regional that we won in my six years —
we were at home.
"When you don't put yourself in
position to host, you're going to have to go on the road and
beat a good team, usually in their back yard. It is what it is.
"I didn't make any excuses with
our kids. I didn't talk about that with the media because it's
not anything you can make excuses about. Virginia is very good,
no doubt, and they were playing good. It's one thing to be good
but when you're playing good and then you're at home — you have
to tip your hat to them. It's more about them and what they've
"What we've got to do is
continue to put ourselves in position to host that regional, get
it back to Greenville, so that we can have that environment."