Notes, Quotes and Slants
Notebook No. 124
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist
Muse can't take wait-and-see
As ironic as it may seem, the Atlantic Coast Conference could provide a
big boost to East Carolina if the league is successful in implementing its
reported breathlessly by the media on Tuesday
to expand its membership to 12 schools.
Long thought to be the source of insurmountable resistance to ECU
achieving athletic parity with its in-state ACC neighbors, the conference
may now be indirectly laying the asphalt for the Pirates' freeway to
In fact, when you weigh the pros and cons of expansion for the so-called
Big Four Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, and Wake Forest East Carolina
could feasibly be the in-state school which benefits most from ACC
Sounds weird, doesn't it?
Not if the Big East comes calling.
It's important to note, though, that's not likely if Chancellor Bill Muse
takes a conservative approach.
If Miami takes the bait and hops in the ACC's boat, Syracuse has all but
said it will follow suit. Closely riding the 'Cuse's coattails will be
Boston College, which is attractive primarily because it boasts one of the
nation's premiere television markets, or Virginia Tech, which has an ally of
sorts albeit a reluctant one caught in a political vise in Virginia.
That would leave the Big East with five football programs, unless of
course Pittsburgh bolts for the Big 10, which isn't far-fetched considering
Penn State provides a geographical tie.
Such a scenario would have Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese facing
two potential options: disband in football, or aggressively seek expansion.
With traditionally-strong Virginia Tech and West Virginia likely left in
limbo by the conference shuffle, there would be enough of a foundation to
quickly shore up the Big East's football posture without necessarily losing
its BCS tie.
That in and of itself should be enough to prompt Muse to do more than
just keenly observe the situation from his chateau on 5th Street.
For East Carolina to position itself for Big East inclusion, it's going
to take a lot more than a nice won-loss record this fall. Those who think
the Pirates are less attractive due to their uncharacteristic 4-8 record
last season are mired in short-term thinking and short-term thinking is
not what drives decisions by the power brokers who put together conference
alignments and long-term, $100 million TV packages.
East Carolina has the rabid fan base, a winning tradition and a track
record of putting fans in the seats when it plays name-brand programs at
home or on the road.
The truth is, however, for East Carolina to be given serious consideration
for a future Big East slot, Muse will probably find it necessary to be
proactive to the extreme in order to firmly wedge ECU into the evolving
Jawboning the chancellors of regional foes West Virginia and Virginia
Tech would be the logical first step. Considering the tradition the Pirates
have for producing sellouts and surprisingly lofty television ratings when
matched against their neighboring Big East rivals, extending the league's
boundaries to eastern North Carolina provides more than just a geographical
In all likelihood, it wouldn't take much arm-wrestling to convince West
Virginia and Virginia Tech officials to make a push for an ECU bid.
A small television market will likely be used as a mark against ECU, but
that's one lame-duck argument Muse can easily shoot down. Though New Bern
and Washington are the only additional cities officially included in the
Greenville market, the Pirates' viewing area essentially stretches from
Wilmington to Virginia Beach, and from the Outer Banks to Raleigh.
Neither Cincinnati nor Memphis both of which are believed to be ahead
of East Carolina in the Big East's pecking order offer such a diverse
market. Perhaps more important, though, neither of those programs is even
close to spawning an ECU-style regional football culture in which large
numbers of fans follow the team with such passion that they schedule their
lives around fall Saturdays.
And as far as television is concerned, Muse can point to East Carolina's
lengthy list of national television appearances, which includes memorable
victories over Miami in '96 and '99. The Pirates' reputation for stoning
Goliaths, along with their tradition for producing spotlight performers, has
historically produced respectable ratings.
After all, that is the bottom line that drives all expansion scenarios
which school can generate the most interest and increase revenue when
television contracts are re-negotiated.
The task now is for East Carolina to show it can be a financial asset to
the Big East's future.
Compared to the mountains Leo Jenkins climbed during his days as
chancellor, Muse's challenge seems more like a molehill.
Senior pitcher Davey Penny's recent dismissal from the baseball program
is the latest event in what has been a turbulent season for the Diamond Bucs
both on the field and in the clubhouse.
The move occurred amid rumors that tension is boiling within the program
and that first-year head coach Randy Mazey is struggling to control the
discord. It has been suggested by observers close to the program that Mazey
orchestrated the vote by seniors to oust Penny from the team.
While this is neither the time nor the forum to comment on such
statements, it wouldn't be out of bounds to offer an opinion on the severity
of the punishment administered to Penny.
If, indeed, Penny's decision not to return to the dugout after a lengthy
rain delay was the primary reason for his dismissal, then Mazey's punishment
was far too severe. The fact that Penny, a senior who has earned the respect
of his teammates both on and off the field, has shown remorse for his
actions and, according to sources, apologized to the entire team should have
been enough to prompt a more lenient penalty.
Mazey could have easily suspended Penny for the upcoming series with
Tulane, which would have sent a clear message that breaching a team policy
will not be tolerated.
Instead, the Pirates' skipper chose a more extreme route and you can't
help but wonder if that will further fuel tensions within the program, as
opposed to stability and respect.
Pirates left tackle Brian Rimpf recently added to his list of honors when
College Football News named him a preseason 2nd-Team All-American and the
Rotary Club of Houston included him on the Lombardi Award watch list for the
second year in a row.
On Sunday, the Raleigh senior will reach another milestone holy
"It's a big ordeal," said Rimpf, who plans to begin pursuit of his MBA
next fall. "Luckily my fiancιe is taking care of a lot of (the wedding
"She and her mom are doing a lot of the plans and keeping me out of it
where I don't have to mess it up, so that's good. All I have to do is get
the tuxes and show up on time."
Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.
Click here to dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville
02/23/2007 01:53:08 AM