VIEWS FROM THE REALM OF
Monday, November 26, 2012
By Danny Whitford
Publisher & Editor
The time is now ... to wait
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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.
With Maryland and Rutgers
bolting their ancestral homelands for the perceived greener pastures of a new
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
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