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Bailey's Take on Conference USA

From the Anchor Desk
Friday, October 19, 2001

By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9


Mixed Up Message on Friday Football Front; Tuesday Game Gets Thumbs Up


The East Carolina athletic administration continues to take heat about the decision to play a college game on a Friday night, a night usually reserved for high school football.

The Pirates will play Southern Mississippi on the Friday night after the Thanksgiving Day Holiday.

Earlier this year, Charlie Adams blasted ECU about the decision. Adams is an ECU graduate who just happens to be the Director of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

Adams went so far as to ask each one of the high school football coaches in attendance at each of the Regional meetings to write the East Carolina administration to voice their individual concerns.

ECU Athletic Director Mike Hamrick once again had to defend the position when he was questioned by a caller on his weekly radio show this week.

The good news is that Hamrick told the caller that he was opposed to playing on Friday, and that he has asked ESPN and Conference USA not to schedule the Pirates on any more Friday nights.

On the other hand, the Pirate Athletic Director's remark to the caller that “95 percent of our local high schools won’t be playing that night anyway” is just flat out wrong information.

With the 1-A playoff pairings including just about every team in each league, there will be many teams in our area that will be very much a part of the playoff picture.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is the second week of the state playoffs all around the state. And it’s not just the local teams that ECU should be worried about, because the Pirates recruit and have fans from all over the state.

Even if we have several upsets in the first round of the playoffs, we will still have plenty of football from our area teams in the second round of the playoffs.

In fact, several schools have told me that they will consider playing on Saturday, if they make it that far. The only problem with that situation is, if we have bad weather the “rain” date would move to Monday.

I believe Hamrick when he says he would rather not play on Friday nights, and I also believe that ECU was given little choice in the matter. It’s unfortunate that ESPN and C-USA have forced Hamrick into the position of having to defend a scheduling decision with which he disagrees.

But it's also important for Hamrick to make himself fully aware of the number of high school games which might be impacted.  Armed with that kind of information, he will be in a better position to lobby the ESPN and C-USA brass to leave ECU out of the Friday night mix in the future.

Tuesday Night Football is a Hit

Tuesday night college football seemed to be a hit, according to those who discussed the topic on talk radio on Wednesday. 

In Greenville, we have the opportunity to listen to both Fox Sports Radio 1250 out of Farmville, and the Sporting News Radio Network on the Talk FM 98.3.

Everything that I heard was very positive. Of course, the Louisville-Southern Miss game came off of the heels of that Monday night disaster between the Cowboys and the Redskins.

Several callers on both stations said they liked the idea of Tuesday night football. Conference USA got just what it wanted, because Southern Miss-Louisville was pretty much the only game in town.

The only thing that I don’t like about playing on Tuesday is that it takes away from the fun of a college football Saturday. East Carolina has only three home Saturdays this season, and that’s a shame.

The Cards and the Golden Eagles put on a good show. Louisville put the game away with a strong fourth quarter, but the game most certainly gave football fans their early week fix.

Louisville’s win puts them on a collision course with East Carolina on the Thursday night before Thanksgiving. Southern Miss gave Dave Ragone fits, but Ragone held tough and led his team to a very important Conference USA win.

The Golden Eagles have two losses, and will now need lots of help in their bid for a league title. But you have to think that Southern Miss will be a big factor when the bowl shuffle begins in late November.

Don’t forget Cincinnati is still unbeaten in league play. The Bearcats get both Louisville and East Carolina at home this season.

Now for a look at this week's games and my updated C-USA Power Rankings:


Memphis at East Carolina

The Pirates are a ten-point favorite, and go after a measure of revenge against a Tiger team that ultimately cost ECU the league title last year.

This is a much different Memphis team then the one that we are all used to. This Tiger team in the past has struggled on offense. This year, Tommy West has teamed up with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner to open things up.

The Tigers will try to spread the Pirates defense out on Saturday. ECU is still looking for the answers on defense, but this Memphis team may bring more questions to town.

I think the key to this game will be in getting pressure on the Tiger’s quarterback, most likely Travis Anglin. It seems like every quarterback the Pirates play against has a career day.

If the Pirates can pressure the quarterback, it will take some of the pressure off of the Pirate secondary, which desperately needs a big day this weekend.

Coach Steve Logan may not agree, but his best game plan may be to control the football. Usually you want to keep the other team’s offense off the field. But Logan may want to pound the Tigers with plenty of doses of Leonard Henry to keep his own defense off the field.

The Pirates can take a big step toward a bowl bid with a win for Homecoming on Saturday.

Army at TCU

Conference USA is as wacky as ever. Just when I thought that TCU might battle for the conference crown, the Frogs go to Tulane and get gigged, 44-28. (Gigging is a Southern tradition that is against the law and definitely against everything that PETA stands for.)

I asked Coach Logan if he was surprised by the game.

“Nope,” he said. “I know if you go to Tulane and you’re not ready to play, you’ll lose against that offense.”

This will be the first ever meeting between the Black Knights and the Horned Frogs. It’s also the first ever league game hosted by TCU.

Tulane at UAB

The Green Wave makes its first ever visit to Birmingham and Legion field to take on the Blazers. Tulane will be riding high, after dusting TCU last week.

In the only other meeting between these two teams, the Blazers won a double-overtime thriller back in 1999. Tulane quarterback Patrick Ramsey threw for 325 yards in that game.

The Green Wave does have an outstanding offense, and they seem to be getting better as a team.

The Pirates are now big Tulane fans, with the Wave scheduled to play both Southern Miss and Louisville later in the season.

Cincinnati at Houston

A lot of the talk around town about the Conference USA championship has not included Cincinnati. That may be a mistake.

The Bearcats are 3-0 in league play, with wins over Army, Tulane and UAB. The Cats still have Houston, Louisville, ECU and Memphis on their schedule.

Cincinnati has won five of the last seven meetings with the Cougars. The Bearcats have also won their last six Conference USA games going back to December, including three on the road.

Brian Bailey's C-USA Power Rankings [101901]

1. Louisville…The Cards pass a big test with win over Southern Miss.

2. East Carolina…The Pirates need a win this week to keep pace with the Cards.

3. Cincinnati….Still not sold on the Bearcats, but can’t argue with 3-0 league mark.

4. Memphis…Tigers hope to keep Conference USA title hopes alive in Greenville.

5. Southern Miss…..Golden Eagles outplayed Louisville most of the way before the self-destruction in 4th quarter.

6. Tulane… Never thought the Green Wave would move up this high, this year.

7. TCU… Horned Frogs took big step backwards with loss to the Wave.

8. UAB…Blazers have lost three in a row since running up the score against Army.

9. Army… Black Knights show class. I agree with Coach Logan that Todd Berry will get the job done at West Point.

10. Houston…Cougars could run the table. Why couldn’t Houston be on the ECU schedule in 2001?

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02/23/2007 01:19:41 AM

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