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
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
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
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
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
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
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