Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Target your ad message at thousands of ECU Pirate fans. Call 252.349.2221 for flexible options & rates.





Pirate Notebook No. 409
Monday, December 14, 2009

Denny O'Brien

ECU better positioned for jump

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

East Carolina wasn’t prepared the last time conference realignment altered the landscape of major college athletics.

And that’s understating it quite a bit.

The last time conferences started board room discussions of wheeling and dealing, East Carolina was led by an athletics director — Mike Hamrick — who was more interested in pursuing his own agenda than posturing the Pirates for a major jump.

Though Hamrick escaped to Las Vegas just before the Big East made its realignment selections official, he did little during his tenure to mold ECU into a more viable option than it was when he arrived.

That left ECU out in the cold while other Conference USA schools with less historical success were given a BCS asylum in the Big East.

With rumors percolating that the Big Ten could soon start the next round of realignment dominoes, East Carolina is much better positioned to make a run at a potential opening in a BCS automatic qualifier conference.

While the Big Ten is obviously not an option, you can only assume that any move it makes almost certainly will have a trickle-down effect on the other major conferences.

That is unless the Big Ten convinces Notre Dame to shed its independence. But that would make little sense for a program that has its own major television deal, along with uniquely-structured access to BCS bowls.

Seriously, why would Notre Dame want to divide its heaping money pie with 11 others? And why would the Irish brass have any desire to relinquish control of football scheduling to Jim Delany and his brood?

That means that essentially every Big Ten expansion scenario would involve either the Big 12 or Big East, with other leagues certain to be affected.

Missouri fits the midwest footprint and has an established rivalry with Illinois, while Syracuse and Pittsburgh also make historical and geographical sense.

Cincinnati is a geographic no-brainer, but you have to think the Big Ten has no interest in a one-hit wonder.

Whichever way the dominoes fall, ECU is much better positioned for a jump to an automatic qualifier league. Since Terry Holland took over the as the school’s athletics CEO, the Pirates have become a more attractive option should the Big East need to restock its roster.

For starters the Pirates are a much more competitive bunch. Since Holland tapped Skip Holtz to oversee the football program, East Carolina has improved annually and now stands as the undisputed king in Conference USA.

If the Big East loses one of its programs, it will certainly need to address the competitive void that is left. Of the candidates that fit within the geographic footprint, East Carolina has to be the most attractive in that regard.

But more goes into a football program’s resumé than results on the field. Much more. There are facilities, fan interest, media attention, television appeal, and location in an untapped market.

Holland has each of those covered.

ECU already has the best facility of the viable Big East candidates, and it will be even better after 7,000 seats are added during the off-season. The timing couldn’t be better when you consider the Pirates sold out each of their home games this fall.

The Pirates also are a fixture on the ESPN family of networks, having appeared six times this season. When you factor in CBS College Sports, the Pirates had eight national appearances, while their other five games were shown regionally.

Not too shabby.

Much of that can be attributed to the intriguing non-conference match-ups Holland has created through a bold scheduling philosophy. That strategy has also helped increase the media’s coverage of ECU, which is significantly more than almost every school that isn’t a member of an AQ league.

Even if the Big East isn’t raided, you have to wonder how long it can maintain the status quo in football. If Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez is successful in his quest to up the Big Ten’s membership to 12, the Big East will be one of only two automatic qualifier conferences with less than a dozen members.

And that severely lowers the league’s financial ceiling.

Truthfully, the rationale that leads to realignment — specifically in the Big East — isn’t that important to ECU. Just as long as it happens.

If it does, the Pirates are in much better position than they were when Hamrick was around. Holland has had a vision since he arrived at ECU and has been steadily preparing for the day that he can advance the program’s conference affiliation to AQ status.

E-mail Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien Archives

12/14/2009 08:25 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.