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Monday, November 26, 2012

By Danny Whitford
Publisher & Editor

The time is now ... to wait

By Danny Whitford
All Rights Reserved.

View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.

Slow down. Stop the presses. Hit the brakes. Hold your horses. Whoa, Nellie! Let all of us with an affinity for East Carolina University athletics take a deep breath and relax. The path to upward mobility in major college sports has been turned on its head — again.


The time is now ... to wait
Hardy already among best ever
Denny O'Brien's Harris BCS Poll Ballot
BCS Standings
Harris, AP, Coaches Polls
Conference USA Standings & Schedule
Spied from the Crow's Nest
Web Headlines Roundup
Conference USA at a Glance
Game Center: ECU 65, Marshall 59 (2OT)
Inside Game Day: Pirates had Herd all the way
Game Slants: Youth served on Senior Day
Game Day Photo Gallery
Audio: Coach Ruff Post-game
Greg's Game Day Breakdown
Game Day Radar Loop & Weather Notes
Kevin's Keys to the Game
Frontcourt duo propels 4-0 Pirates
Too early for bowl talk, says Ruff
Audio: Terry Holland on Conference Realignment
Audio: Coach Ruff Monday Presser
ECU Football Schedule
ECU Basketball Schedule
Year-by-Year Recruiting

With Maryland and Rutgers bolting their ancestral homelands for the perceived greener pastures of a new realm, another round of musical chairs has begun. And that's before those selected for visas in the previous round of migration were even able to find their seats in the new world order.

It's time for the denizens of Pirate Nation to pause and let the dust settle. With the college football galaxy spinning chaotically, this is no time to reach for the stars. The risk of latching onto a deadly asteroid instead is too great.

The decision makers at late-round Big East draft picks Navy, Central Florida, Memphis, Houston, Southern Methodist, Boise State and San Diego State are holding their breath and holding on to their wallets as they watch the league once again react too ineptly, too late to properly fortify itself.

The honchos at Air Force and Brigham Young are patting themselves on the backs for resisting the Big East's siren song.

This time, the end result of the dysfunctional decade the Big East wrought upon itself when it allowed tensions between the football and basketball-only schools to get out of hand in 2003 may be its relegation to the status it enjoyed in the 1980s — Northeastern hoops power league without the hassles and pressures of big-time football.

But, as it has demonstrated in the past, Big East football won't go down without inviting others onto its listing life raft. That's why the Pirates of ECU need to sail a wide arc around the rocky shoals jutting out from the league's Providence home port.

The impending loss of its AQ access to the mega bowls and the collapsing dollar projections associated with its TV contract negotiations have decimated the Big East's leverage to continue plodding along by poaching warm bodies from other conferences.

The one hundred percent certainty that Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida will bail at the first opportunity merely accentuates the reality that the fracturing of the league's gridiron foundation is almost complete.

With the leaders of the Big East's incoming crop of new members rethinking their options, now is not the time for East Carolina to accept or even solicit a Big East football membership.

An all-sports membership, maybe, assuming the league's legacy basketball schools don't split off. Under such a scenario, ECU hoops could benefit immensely and the football Pirates could return the favor by playing the same linchpin role that Virginia Tech once played in helping the Big East shore up its pigskin credentials.

But football only? No way. The desirability of that option sailed with the departures from the Big East of West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

There is no need for panic in Pirate Land. Conference USA now has equal access with the Big East to the glory and financial rewards associated with the new football postseason structure that will take effect after the 2014 season.

The new regional rivalries East Carolina has in the offing with Old Dominion and Charlotte offer great promise for the future, either in Conference USA or in the emergence of a new league of like-minded schools along the East Coast or in the Southeast.

Another scenario with intriguing possibilities would be for the Big East to come to the realization that inviting ECU, ODU and Charlotte as an all-sports package would nail down a major stake in the North Carolina-Virginia market. But considering the league's track record of reacting to disaster after it strikes instead of staying two steps ahead of it, such a forward-thinking move probably makes too much sense to gain the consideration it merits.

As the college football landscape quakes over the next few years, other opportunities yet to be envisioned may arise for ECU. The demographic trends that seem to mesmerize conference architects and TV bean counters have been inching in the right direction for the Greenville market and Eastern North Carolina in recent years.

In the meantime, ECU's legions of supporters have proven they will fly the colors, pony up financial support and flock to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium 50,000 strong as long as they perceive that the school's leaders are competently following an ambitious and ethical path towards high-level success.

With all of that in mind, it is time for those purple partisans endowed with the energy born of great passion but misguided by the delusions that accompany obsession to swear off further clamoring and groveling for Big East membership.

East Carolina's best course at this point in time is to keep her steady as she goes.

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11/26/2012 05:27 AM

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