IF THE BIG EAST FAILS TO TAKE ECU, THEN IT IS DUMBER THEN IT LOOKS
If the recent tectonic shifts throughout the landscape that is intercollegiate athletics has taught us anything it is that sitting on ones hands makes one weaker.
The Big XII (or The Little VIII rather) and the Big East have already learned this lesson the hard way while the ACC, SEC, the Big 10 and the PAC 12 took the initiative to strengthen their respective positions.
However, if the Big East fails to bring the East Carolina Pirates into the fold immediately then perhaps its leadership has the aggregate intelligence of Forest Gump or better yet Corky from Life Goes On. Now that’s not a knock against people with Down syndrome, although I can see how it could be interpreted that way given the lack of cognitive function that is apparently being exhibited behind the scenes in these Big East meetings.
The Big East has been operating under the misguided belief that it should wait for a better opportunity. It ostensibly believes that if it rides this whole realignment stuff out then it will some how find what it has truly wanted all along. Unfortunately, like a fading beauty, past her prime that never had that much going for her in the first place, the Big East better take what it can get while it can get it because Prince Charming ain’t coming through that door sister.
If some semblance of stability isn’t restored immediately then there’s a much greater chance that more teams will bolt for greener pastures and that already fading AQ crown will most certainly disappear.
In comes ECU, the savior for the Big East! While some may scoff at this notion, ECU actually is the Big East’s knight in shinning armor, so to speak.
Many of the so-called experts and pundits fail to simply look back at recent history. When Louisville, Cincinnati, and USF were brought in out of Conference USA back in 2003, under similar circumstances, many were calling for the AQ tag to be relinquished by the Big East. However, for the most part those schools have actually been in the top half of the Big East pecking order since joining.
The brandishing of the AQ tag could do wonders for a team like ECU. In fact ECU is a more developed and refined product then those schools were in 2003 and maybe even are now. Cincinnati was essentially a Conference USA doormat with ECU holding an all-time 12-5 advantage to this day. The ECU-Louisville series was usually heated and basically even over the years and USF didn’t even have a football program until the 90s.
ECU was actually successful against the two most recent departures from The Big East, with a 2-0 record against Pitt all-time and the Pirates used to regularly beat the Orangemen back in the 90s when Syracuse football was still relevant.
Now, Louisville and Cincinnati have Big East conference championships and BCS bowl games under their belts while USF is currently a top-20 ball club. Notwithstanding all of the recent success attained by these three schools, ECU still continues to considerably outdraw Cincinnati and USF in attendance and on television screens and is right on par with Louisville in those two categories.
One can only imagine what a team like ECU (who averages 50,000 a game in a non-AQ conference) could do if they received the resources and exposure that implicitly accompanies AQ status.
But let’s do our best Michael J. Fox impersonation and hop in the ’85 DeLorean and go even a little bit further back in time. Many people would be shocked to discover that in the early 90s right when Virginia Tech was jumping from the independent ranks and into the Big East, ECU actually had the better football program. ECU held a 4-3 series lead at that point and had won two years in a row over the Hokies. Moreover, the Pirates were just recently coming off an 11-1 season where they finished with a top 10 overall ranking and had beaten the likes of South Carolina, Syracuse (a team that beat Ohio Sate and Florida and finished in the top 15), Pittsburg, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, and an NC State squad in the Peach bowl that also finished the season ranked (a team that finished 2nd in the ACC that year).
If ECU had gotten the big break that the Hokies did back then it would be hard to argue that ECU wouldn’t be in a comparable position to where the Hokies are now. Before Big East inclusion, Frank Beamer was holding on by a thread with a 17-26-1 over-all record. Like Greenville, Blacksburg isn’t exactly a booming metropolis. Like Virginia Tech, ECU is a football first institution with a passionate fan base.
The myth about media markets not being up to par for ECU is absolutely ludicrous and bogus. If this were true the SEC wouldn’t even exist as it was founded by and currently thrives with football first schools, with rabid fans, in small southern college towns. ECU is exactly what the Big East needs in order to stay relevant: a football school, in a new region that still fits the geographic scheme, with tons of fans, that has an unlimited growth potential.
ECU already draws more eyes to TV screens then NC State does in NC State’s own hometown of Raleigh. ECU comes in as a close 2nd behind UNC in viewership in Charlotte despite having 4 ACC teams in between them and that city. ECU is the fastest growing institution in the state and is currently the third biggest university in North Carolina. And even though the educational prestige argument is a load of horse manure, it should be pointed out that ECU’s academic standing is on the rise and that ECU is a top-tier school in the latest rankings issued by the US News and World Report with a top-notch medical school and a new dental school.
But allow me digress for a moment, this is more about foolish pride on behalf of the Big East then anything else.
The Big East was founded as a basketball league and football has always been an ancillary activity. However, in the current NCAA landscape, football is the undisputed champion in terms of revenue and fan interest. Despite this fact, the Big East has refrained from “adding schools for the sake of adding schools” in order to appease the historical basketball powers within the conference. Consequently, by not taking an aggressive approach to expand Big East Football, the Big East has not only become less relevant in football but also in the very entity that it so desperately wanted to preserve: Big East basketball.
The gurus running the Big East appear to be afraid to add a school like ECU because it’s like admitting to their own failure. The Big East seems to be scared of the public perception that would go along with adding a Conference USA school again.
What these geniuses fail to understand is that instead of looking at the eagerness of ECU to join as a weakness it should recognize that it needs a school that wants to be there and that brings what Big East football overall is lacking: passion, excitement, an administration committed to do whatever it takes, and a growing fan base that is thirsty for football prominence.
The strength is in numbers right now and now that the Pac 12 seems to be temporarily content the Big 12 will likely survive. Accordingly, the Big 12 is looking to stop the bleeding and may even be targeting West Virginia, TCU and Louisville. The Big East’s best option is to take ECU now and they should also bring in Navy, UCF and Houston at the very least.
What other option does it have other then to wait to be further picked apart by the vultures and scavengers that make up this post-apocalyptic Darwinist BCS college football world that we are living in today; a system that violates the Sherman Antitrust Act by monopolizing America’s favorite sport with the primary goal of limiting competition (but we’ll save that rant for another day).
The Big East cannot and will not do better then adding a team that sells out every game, is about to increase its capacity to 60,000, has been to 5 strait bowls, has won its conference 2 out of 3 years, traditionally plays national powers tough, is in an emerging market, and has an SEC-type state of mind. If the powers that be don’t scurry to invite ECU into the Big East then they really are more stupid then they already look right now.