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Henry's Highlights
Friday, April 29, 2005

By Henry Hinton

12th game implications could be far-reaching


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The NCAA Board of Directors approved a measure on Thursday allowing Division 1 football programs to play 12 games each year beginning in 2006. The implications for East Carolina’s future are large.

The NCAA Management Council approved the measure on April 12th and it was ratified by the entire board of directors in Indianapolis yesterday.

Previously a twelfth game was allowed only in those years when 14 Saturdays fell between the permissible dates. The next scheduled year was to have been 2008. Now schools have the option to play the additional game starting with the 2006 season.

Athletic directors are, no doubt, dialing all over the country to try to get the best game possible. The initiative will be a windfall for some programs and a financial savior for others.

It could be just what the doctor ordered for ECU. Given Terry Holland’s apparent philosophy that the Pirate program must convince in-state schools and schools in contiguous states to regularly play home and home with East Carolina, this new rule essentially eliminates the most used excuse: "We can’t fit you in our schedule."

The truth is that Holland has been greasing the skids already in preparation for this. With the western expansion of Conference USA, it seems there will be fewer and fewer games that could be considered natural rivalry games for the Pirates.

Holland recognizes that the emotion and passion involved in an ECU-N.C. State game or a Pirate-Tar Heel bout — particularly once the program becomes competitive again — will dwarf any interest in games with teams from Texas.

Administrators in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and at the other I-A schools in the Carolinas and Virginia has in mind should also get excited about the pay day a game with ECU could bring.

Holland wants to play at least one of those games every year. And why not? With a 12th game allowed, it just makes sense.

No doubt there will be coaches and others inside the various schools who would rather add Furman, East Tennessee State or Navy. But fans will win, universities will win and the Pirate program will certainly win if this 12th game becomes a new reason for ECU to be added to the schedules of N.C. State, UNC-CH, South Carolina, Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

There is also speculation that the addition of a 12th game could bring new discussions about expansion of the Big East, a conference now with just eight football schools. Adding a game will bring scheduling opportunities and challenges for those schools.

The new Big East football conference is comprised of Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville,
Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse , South Florida and West Virginia.

The status of the Big East in the Bowl Championship series has become tenuous since the exodus of Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech. There's no question the Big East has lost some glitter as a major football conference, in terms of perception.

In fact, adding Louisville, which finished the year ranked 10th in the final BCS standings in 2004, may have actually saved the Big East's BCS tie-in — for the moment.

Under the current contract, the champions from the BCS conferences with automatic berths are required to average a top-12 finish in the final BCS standings over a revolving four-year period or face a review.

Without Louisville the Big East might well have trouble meeting that standard. For now, the league appears okay.

Then again, there is that perception thing.

Would adding ECU help or hurt in that regard? There is no question that the Pirates’ recent football woes have come at a very bad time. In fact, timing could not be worse.

Looking ahead, however, there is a renewed sense that ECU could be back on track in the near future. At the very least an argument can be made that the commitment is there.

Bringing in national names like Terry Holland and Skip Holtz have raised some eyebrows around the country. This should be helpful if, indeed, the Big East makes a move anytime soon.

Having South Florida move ahead of ECU in this sweepstakes the first time around is still a bitter pill for many Pirate faithful. Perhaps there is another opportunity around the bend. And it could be rushed along a bit by this 12-game schedule.

First and foremost, however, Holland will be on the phone to schools in and around the state to try and get those home and home games.


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02/23/2007 10:16:16 AM

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