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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports


From the Anchor Desk
Friday, May 9, 2003
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Is ECU prepared to navigate stormy weather?


For years, all we have heard is that college athletics will have a completely different look after 2005. The story has always been that non-BCS schools with burgeoning athletic ambitions — like East Carolina — need to make themselves as attractive as possible as the layout of college sports changes.

Well, 2005 is just around the corner, and the Atlantic Coast Conference is apparently ready to get the ball rolling. The ACC celebrated its 50th year this week with much of the media hyperventilating about the prospect that Year No. 51 could move the league in a totally new direction.

The ACC would reportedly like to expand to 12 teams in order to be able to stage a league championship game in football, much like the Big 12 and the SEC do each December. Millions of dollars are to be made from this one venture.

If the ACC decides to expand, the league will likely take Miami first. If a package deal is in the works, the ACC will most likely consider bringing in two additional schools on Miami's coattails from a group that includes Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech.

I wrote last week that East Carolina is lucky to have a long-term football contract with West Virginia, that the closer relations the Pirates can maintain with the Big East, the better things will be over the long haul.

However, I do understand that a Big East without Miami — and possibly without Syracuse and/or Boston College and/or Virginia Tech — isn’t “Big” at all in the sense that it is with the mighty Hurricanes in the fold. But it certainly isn’t the “Little East” either, and I can’t believe the BCS would turn its back on what would be left of the league.

My point is this: The BCS won’t leave Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers and any holdovers from the Syracuse/BC/VPI trio out in the cold. On the other hand, I don’t think Temple is worth fighting for.

For arguments sake, let’s say the ACC takes Miami, Syracuse and Boston College.

That leaves Tech, WVU, Pitt and Rutgers all trying to save the league. I would think that East Carolina, Louisville, Southern Miss, Memphis — and any other ambitious athletic program in Conference USA — would jump at the chance to join forces with schools of such pedigree.

There are several concerns with ACC expansion. One line of speculation would have the conference adding just one team, Miami, in order to keep the demand by boosters for ACC basketball tournament tickets manageable. That venerable event has long been a cash cow for the league and its schools. Adding a team means fewer tickets for the other nine schools. Adding three teams really cuts up the pie.

Another idea, predicated on the ACC limiting its membership to 10 teams, would have the ACC band together with C-USA, the Big Ten and other conferences with less then 12 teams to appeal to the NCAA to allow those leagues to have a conference championship game anyway.

Regardless, the Pirates have to somehow get into the group of “haves” rather than falling in with the collection of schools that will, for the foreseeable future, be the “have nots.”

That’s certainly not a knock against the East Carolina program. But when 2005 hits, I believe you’re going to have a group of schools that make it, that get a chance to play for a national championship every year, and a group of schools that don’t make it.

The timing for East Carolina may be all wrong. Chancellor William Muse has stepped up his role over the last several months in calling the shots for the athletic department, beginning with his decisive involvement in the process that led to John Thompson's hiring as the school’s football coach.

Does Muse have enough power and connections from his days at Auburn in the SEC to make East Carolina a player in this next shakeup?

Is Mike Hamrick, ECU's athletic director, on enough solid ground at the school to make a difference?

Where will the Pirates sail in 2005?

Get ready, because turbulent seas lie ahead.

As this critical journey gets under way, let’s just hope the ship's course is being ably charted and carefully steered every nautical mile of the way.

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02/23/2007 01:26:31 AM


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