Nov 292012
 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

About 15 hours after East Carolina made official its plans to join the Big East in football, another domino fell.

Louisville accepted an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference early Wednesday morning, immediate proof that conference expansion never stops. Though such a quick change wasn’t expected even the previous evening when ECU officials announced the move to the Big East beginning in 2014, no changes at this point would surprise the university’s administration or Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco, who last week saw long-standing member Rutgers leave for the ACC.

“It’s a fact of life,” Aresco said of conference expansion. “It happened to the ACC recently. It happened to the Big 12 last year. None of us likes it particularly, obviously, but it’s a fact of life and it does create opportunities.”

Needless to say, countless things have changed in the Big East since ECU first began trying to position itself for such a move, not the least of which is membership.

As one team after another began switching leagues in the early 2000s and those leagues shuffled to accommodate and plan for their future, administrators like ECU Chancellor Dr. Steve Ballard were forced to roll with the punches. For the Pirates it proved to be a long process, but Ballard said he had a constant in that process in Director of Athletics Terry Holland.

“I’ve been working on the Big East since I was 10,” Ballard joked after announcing ECU’s conference move, part of an effort which predates his May 2004 arrival at ECU. “We’ve been trying to position ourselves ever since coach Holland came here, and that cuts across specific conference affiliation. It really has to do with the brand and the image and the performance of every one of our sports, and frankly the success of our student-athletes means a great deal to that. All of those things we’ve been working on since Terry came over eight years ago.”

From the top

While Aresco tries to land a new TV deal for the ever-changing Big East, he feels the league speaks for itself in terms of football quality.

Even with the new BCS scenario that will place the Big East among the bottom five conferences and force them to all vie for one BCS bowl berth, Aresco feels his league remains the cream of that crop and offers the best exposure.

“It’s an opportunity to have more of the country see you, to play at the highest level,” Aresco said. “We know we can challenge the other five (BCS automatic qualifier) conferences. We always have, and we have a seat at the table. We have access for our champion, if it’s the highest-ranked champion in the group of conferences, and we expect it to be. It would have been seven of the past eight years, and we would have been playing on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve.”

Even with the loss of Louisville on Wednesday, Aresco thinks the Big East’s impending new members from the west, Boise State and San Diego State, give the conference what he called “a truly national” football presence.

He also noted that the traditional basketball conference is helped greatly by the publicity that comes with its hardwood tradition, though a chunk of that is on its way out after the Cardinals’ announcement. Despite the seemingly endless turnover, Aresco thinks securing a strong TV partnership in football is a certainty.

“We feel like with roughly 90 games, a championship football game, great product, great teams … now we’ve got big markets, up-and-coming teams, already established teams and we’re very confident the networks will recognize that,” he said.

Contact Nathan Summers nsummers@reflector.com or 252-329-9595.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Nov 292012
 

Published: November 29, 2012

JEFF WILLHELM – jwillhelm@charlotteobserver.com
Jammie Price, professor of sociology at Appalachian State University, talks with supporters after meeting with university administration on April 30, 2012.

ASU faculty, administrators clash over outspoken professor

By Jane Stancill – jstancill@newsobserver.com

A battle over academic freedom and the power of athletics is pitting faculty against top leaders at Appalachian State University.

A faculty committee recently found that university administrators violated the academic freedom of a tenured sociology professor. The professor, Jammie Price, was disciplined after students complained that she had made disparaging remarks about athletes and had shown a film about the pornography industry. At the time of the complaints last spring, the campus was embroiled in controversy over allegations of sexual assault by ASU athletes.

Price was placed on administrative leave with pay in March. The university in Boone, part of the University of North Carolina system, also imposed a professional development plan on her to address her teaching effectiveness, despite a satisfactory five-year review just weeks earlier.

Price filed a grievance, and after 24 hours of hearings and the review of more than 100 exhibits, a faculty committee concluded in October that the ASU administration had violated Price’s rights to due process and academic freedom by removing her from the classroom.

Price, who returned to the classroom this fall, said she was ostracized while an investigation was conducted.

“I was removed not just from teaching but also from campus,” she said in an interview this week. “They labeled me a threat to campus. I was basically treated like I was a terrorist.”

The faculty panel recommended setting aside the professional development plan, writing that such a plan “constitutes an unwarranted intrusion on Prof. Price’s academic freedom to teach her subject as she sees fit.”

But in a Nov. 21 letter to Price, ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock said he is rejecting the faculty panel’s recommendation. “I find no persuasive evidence in the record to indicate how the professional development plan will ‘unreasonably restrict your academic endeavors,’ ” he wrote.

ASU officials declined to answer questions about the case Wednesday.

“The university correspondence which Dr. Jammie Price has circulated is part of a confidential personnel matter, the details of which the university is prohibited under state law from discussing,” said a statement by Hank Foreman, associate vice chancellor for university communications and cultural affairs. “Appalachian has policies in place to ensure employees have a process by which their grievances may be heard and their rights protected.”

Racism and porn

The chain of events started on March 2 in Price’s introductory sociology class. She wore a T-shirt with a slogan related to a silent protest on campus about the recent sexual assaults.

Price recalls that she answered some students’ questions about the T-shirt at the beginning of class. Then, during a lecture on institutional racism, she said, she talked about how college athletes who are predominantly black are treated by the system. Though they may have scholarships, they are not really having the same college experience as other students, she said she told the class.

“All I was doing was straight sociology,” Price said.

A female student athlete in the class was offended and went to an associate athletics director with a complaint about Price. She told university officials that Price had ranted about student athletes and made remarks that she perceived as racist. Another student expressed similar concerns.

An investigation was launched, and Price was told not to do anything to retaliate or intimidate the student.

Price said she wasn’t sure what she could teach for her next class, which was to be focused on gender. She chose to show a film called “The Price of Pleasure.” She described it as an anti-porn documentary that explores how mainstream businesses such as hotels and financial funds are tied up with pornography. The film includes blurred images of porn.

Two more students complained.

‘Consistently confrontational’

Administrators found fault with Price’s classroom conduct. Linda Foulsham, director of equity, diversity and compliance, wrote in her investigative findings about Price: “Her pedagogy appears to be consistently confrontational, belittling, angry, critical, and destructive of the potential for a valuable educational experience for her students. Whether or not students felt demeaned or harassed based on their race, sex, political affiliation, status as an athlete or status as an Appalachian student, there is a consistent pattern of Dr. Price making students feel uncomfortable.”

A faculty panel sided with Price on most issues of the case, though the group criticized the professor for “a serious lapse in judgment” in showing a video about the porn industry with no contextual background or class discussion. The panel rejected the administration’s claim that the video viewing constituted a retaliatory act by the professor that created a hostile classroom environment.

The faculty review also found that the subjects discussed in class were not off-limits, even though they might have been unsettling to some students.

“In teaching race and ethnicity, Prof. Price discusses race in the context of higher education and student athletics. In doing so, she does not paint a pretty picture, and it intentionally hits home with many students,” the faculty report said. “Even if her illustrations are critical of Appalachian, that is legitimate sociology. … It is a legitimate argument in the field and at the university that others perceive athletes as receiving special privileges. In fact, ASU student athletes do receive special privileges.”

The faculty review committee said the whole issue could have been resolved if the academic department had facilitated a dialogue between Price and the first student who complained. The panel called the lack of such a meeting “a missed opportunity.”

Men’s poker game

The panel also pointed out that the student had complained to athletics officials, who took the issue to the university’s equity office and a swift investigation was launched.

“It is ironic that a case – initiated at least in part by Prof. Price’s assertion that student athletes get preferential treatment – became an object demonstration that student athletes do, in fact, get preferential treatment,” the faculty panel wrote.

Price, who has made several complaints against ASU to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said she’s worried about her future at the Boone university.

She has been outspoken on a number of campus issues, including a poker club she says is dominated by male faculty and administrators.

“The whole experience here at App State has been, it’s like going back in time,” said Price, who describes herself as a feminist whose sociological expertise is men and masculinity. “It’s like it’s 1950 here. … It’s a club. They do whatever they want to do. If a woman says that’s not how it should be or expresses discontent, they put her in her place.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559

The story so far

Two female students at Appalachian State University in Boone accused five students, four of them athletes, of sexual assault in separate incidents in 2011. A student conduct board found two of the athletes responsible and suspended them from campus. No criminal charges were ever filed. The university later changed the way it handles sexual-assault cases, no longer allowing students to hear those cases.

As the campus was embroiled in controversy over the allegations, Jammie Price, a professor of sociology, was placed on administrative leave with pay in March after a student complained that she made disparaging comments about athletes and remarks that the student construed as racist. Other students complained after Price showed her class a film about the pornography industry without any context or discussion. In addition to the leave, the university imposed a professional development plan on Price to address her teaching effectiveness.

She filed a grievance petition in June.

In a report released in October, a faculty panel made up of six professors backed Price, saying the university violated her academic freedom and due process rights. But it also said Price had made a “serious lapse in judgment” in showing the film.

The faculty panel said Price should not have to complete the professional development plan. But ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock said he planned to uphold that requirement.

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Nov 292012
 

From staff reports

DURHAM — Melinda Gates, philanthropist and Duke graduate, will give the May commencement speech at her alma mater, the university announced Wednesday.

Gates has two degrees from Duke – a 1986 bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics and a 1987 master’s in business administration. She served on the university’s Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2003. She will give the speech at the May 12 graduation ceremony at Wallace Wade Stadium on the Duke campus.

She is the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and worked at the company from 1987 to 1996. Since then she has been an active philanthropist. She is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has awarded more than $26 billion in grants in the U.S. and around the world in the last 18 years.

At Duke, the Gates foundation has been a huge donor. It awarded $46.5 million to Duke researchers for the development of an HIV vaccine. It gave $10 million for financial aid, $20 million for a scholarship program and $35 million for the French Family Science Center, named for Melinda Gates’ family.

The foundation, along with the Duke Endowment, also supported the $30 million DukeEngage program that has provided 2,000 Duke students with summer service experiences across the globe.

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Nov 292012
 

Published: November 28, 2012

Tami Chappell/Reuters
Gene Chizik won a national title two years ago, but was fired this season after Auburn went 3-9. He is owed $7.5 million.

Firing a Coach, at a Price, With Little Evidence the Move Pays Off

By JERÉ LONGMAN

For an especially lucrative occupation, one might consider becoming a fired college football coach.

The latest symbol of the college football arms race is not the coaches’ salaries themselves but rather the money that university officials are spending to buy out those huge contracts when a coach falters.

After Tennessee fired its coach last week, the university’s chancellor said the athletic department would forgo $18 million in contributions it was to make to the university over the next three years for academic scholarships and fellowship programs. Instead, some of the money will be used to pay the severance packages of the coach, Derek Dooley, who is owed $5 million, and his staff, which is owed a reported $4 million if it is not retained. Dooley had four years remaining on his contract.

On Sunday, Auburn fired its coach, Gene Chizik, two seasons after the Tigers went unbeaten and won the national championship. Auburn said it owed $11 million in buyouts to its coaching staff, including $7.5 million to Chizik, who had three years left on his contract. He is to be paid $208,334 a month for the next 36 months. The money could have been used to fund other sports.

“It’s shameful,” said Raymond D. Sauer, chairman of the department of economics at Clemson University and president of the North American Association of Sports Economists. “We can understand the market forces at work, but all that money being burned up that way is a high cost of doing business.”

Sauer said there was “a gusher of money” in the Southeastern Conference. “But it’s limited,” he added.

Coaches’ salaries have soared in recent years at colleges throughout the country, often reaching several million dollars a year, as university officials have intensified efforts to claim some of the sport’s growing riches that come from billion-dollar television contracts, merchandise sales and alumni contributions. But college officials do not seem encumbered by the large contracts; rather, they appear willing to pay the coaches handsomely to go away and make room for new hires — despite little evidence that coaching changes generally result in better teams.

The University of Houston forced its offensive coordinator to resign after one game. After two games, Wisconsin dumped its offensive line coach.

“The pressure has gotten out of control to win,” said Bradley Dale Peveto, whose contract was terminated last week after four seasons at Northwestern State of Louisiana.

Over the past decade, about 1 in 10 universities at the major college level replaced their head football coaches annually for performance-related reasons. But a recent study suggests that replacements do not tend to make underperforming teams much better in subsequent seasons and frequently make them worse.

Anecdotal evidence and scientific analysis indicate that replacing a coach is no guarantee of success. Houston finished 5-7 this season after changing its coordinator. Wisconsin is a middling 7-5 after firing its line coach. The Badgers reached the Big Ten Conference title game only because N.C.A.A. penalties left Ohio State and Penn State ineligible.

A study published last month in Social Science Quarterly may provide sobering news to Auburn, Tennessee and other universities that have fired their coaches. Using data from 1997 to 2010, the study compared the performance of major college teams that replaced their coach with teams with similar records that kept their coach.

The results, tracked over a five-year period following the coaching changes, might surprise many. The lowliest teams subsequently performed about the same as other struggling teams that did not replace their coach. Mediocre teams — those that won about half their games in the year before a coaching change — performed worse than similar teams that did not replace their coach.

The reasons for this are not clearly understood, but may stem from an adjustment period required by a coach at a new university, the time players need to learn a new system and disruptions made to recruiting networks, said E. Scott Adler, an associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado and the lead author of the study.

Statistically speaking, Adler said: “There’s not much to be said for every few years dumping a coach who’s had a couple bad seasons. In the long run, you are about in the same situation down the road if you had done nothing and ridden out the storm.”

Adler’s own university recently fired its coach, Jon Embree.

There are exceptions, of course, which lend urgency to efforts by fans and administrators to throw out one coach and bring in another. Auburn measures itself against a fierce intrastate rival, Alabama, which is seeking its third national title in four seasons after hiring Nick Saban at a hefty salary that has reached $5.5 million per season, the highest in the country.

Universities view football as a kind of front porch to their campuses, drawing attention in a way that no other endeavor can. Administrators are increasingly reliant on football to support other sports and spur donations at a time when the vast majority of universities lose money on athletics. Desperation to win has increased as universities chase the payouts from billion-dollar television contracts.

Some football coaches have become the highest-paid employees of their states. The average salary for a head coach at a big-time university is $1.64 million, an increase of more than 70 percent since 2006, according to an analysis by USA Today.

Auburn expected better results from Chizik’s team this season. The Tigers were 3-9, including an 0-8 record in the Southeastern Conference and an embarrassing 49-0 loss to the Crimson Tide. Reports of an N.C.A.A. investigation into possible rules violations also have surfaced in the news media.

“This could be a prophylactic move by Auburn — we know what’s coming, let’s get on the front end of this and maybe lessen sanctions,” said Robert H. Lattinville, chairman of the sports division of the law firm Stinson Morrison Hecker, which represents numerous coaches.

Chizik’s firing comes at a time of growing scrutiny of coaches on talk radio and cable television; rising costs for tickets, TV packages and merchandise; and increased access by fans to administrators via social media.

“People have gotten impatient for a lot of reasons,” Lattinville said. “They want more immediate results.”

At the college sports level, Lattinville said, “you can’t fire the players,” so the coach takes the fall for a lack of success. “It sends a message to the fan base and recruits that this is important, we’re trying, we’re doing something.”

At Tennessee, the chancellor, Jimmy G. Cheek, said the university would try to make up for the loss in academic funding through private contributions — a scenario that has raised concerns among faculty members.

“My long-term concern is the arms race for coaches’ salaries,” said Toby Boulet, an associate engineering professor and a former president of Tennessee’s faculty senate. “If athletics are going to remain self-supporting in Knoxville, we’re going to have to find a way to be successful and fund that. I’d like to see the budget set up so that if the football team encounters a rocky patch, scholarships don’t go away.”

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Nov 282012
 

Director of Athletics Terry Holland and Chancellor Steve Ballard hold a news conference confirming ECU will join the Big East in football in 2014. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

By Nathan Summers

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

East Carolina football pledged its future to the Big East on Tuesday, a move that Director of Athletics Terry Holland said will give ECU an easier road to bigger and better bowls and potentially give the university a good deal more revenue.

Holland and ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard confirmed ECU’s football-only switch from Conference USA — the Pirates’ conference since 1996 — at a news conference Tuesday on campus.

“I think access to the best bowl games — and the one that you want to be in is a BCS bowl game — it provides that opportunity,” Holland said of the Big East football move, which will take effect in 2014. “I don’t think there is any doubt that the potential for revenue is an important piece of it. It shouldn’t be a driving factor in college athletics, but it’s a factor that we all have to be conscious of and make sure that we are stewards of those resources.”

Holland stressed the change, which came on the same day that fellow Conference USA member Tulane announced it was accepting a Big East invitation for all sports, was a football decision. He and Ballard said that finding a future home for ECU’s 18 other sports was an immediate priority.

“It’s our intention to use this announcement today as a springboard to make sure that we find the very best competitive situations for all 19 of our sports,” Holland said, noting that former Big East members like Virginia Tech and West Virginia began as football-only but were able to parlay their success into full membership for all sports. “The next step will be to find an equally exciting and competitive environment for the 18 sports other than football.”

Holland lauded Ballard’s drive to help put the Pirates into a league that in 2014 will look a lot like the old C-USA, though it expects to still have the likes of recent acquisitions Boise State and San Diego State to help redefine the new-look conference.

Ballard said the move was the result of a commitment to bettering ECU.

“It doesn’t come through gratuities. It comes through hard work, great coaches, improving our national brand and doing the right things for the university,” he said.

ECU and Tulane became part of a recent mass exodus from C-USA to the Big East. The Pirates and Green Wave are set to join current C-USA members Houston, Southern Methodist, Memphis and Central Florida, along with former C-USA participants South Florida, Cincinnati and Louisville.

In addition to Boise and SDSU, Temple also is on board, and Navy expects to join the league in 2015 with the hopes of landing at 14 football members.

Rutgers last week announced it is leaving the Big East to join the Big 10.

Amid such heavy turnover, both Holland and Ballard are aware the Big East lineup might be different before the Pirates make their debut.

“Conference realignment is continuous, and I think everybody knows that now,” Ballard said. “The TV markets mean so much to the revenues of each institution. We view it to be an ongoing situation. We feel if our performance is where we want it to be across 19 sports, we’re going to position ourselves to be in a good place for all of those changes that I think are inevitable. This is a great first step.”

Ballard said he did not know what to expect in terms of revenue. The chancellor noted that the Big East and Commissioner Mike Aresco — who joined the news conference via teleconference — are negotiating a new TV contract.

“We feel very, very confident that this going to be a real step up for the revenues of our athletic program,” Ballard said.

Aresco echoed the sentiment, saying the Big East has garnered “significant interest” from every major network, and he also raised the possibility of a Big East network. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, Aresco was singing the praises of its newest football member.

“You have a wonderful and deep football pedigree and tradition of outstanding teams and unrivaled fan support,” Aresco said of ECU. “Your fan base is legendary, as committed as any in the country. The Big East has always been a conference of opportunity for new members, and the country will soon see more of East Carolina football.”

 

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com or 252-329-9595.

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Nov 282012
 

Published: November 28, 2012

 The stretch of N.C. 12 just north of Mirlo Beach at Rodnathe is still buckled and damaged in this photograph shot on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012.   N.C. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

The stretch of N.C. 12 just north of Mirlo Beach at Rodnathe is still buckled and damaged in this photograph shot on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. N.C. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

After short-term fix for N.C. 12, DOT has a $226 million plan

By Bruce Siceloff – bsiceloff@newsobserver.com

The state Department of Transportation might decide to build a temporary bridge over a stretch of N.C. 12 at Rodanthe that has been closed to traffic since it was ripped up by Hurricane Sandy a month ago – just like the steel bridge erected a year ago, in the wake of Hurricane Irene, to patch the same road a few miles away.

DOT engineers huddled with federal environmental officials at a Nags Head fishing pier Tuesday, hoping to work out a short-term fix.

They want to reopen N.C. 12 to traffic for the 4,500 year-round residents of Hatteras Island, and bolster the fragile road against the coming winter storm season.

And they hope to buy time until they can start work next year on a pair of major projects – with a combined price estimated at $226 million – intended to provide more long-term stability for the Outer Banks lifeline.

“We’re considering a combination of temporary bridges and beach nourishment to stabilize the area and give us a little bit of time for the permanent solution,” said Victor Barbour, DOT technical services director. “We want to make that decision and move forward to restore access for the folks that live out in that area.”

The ‘S-curves’ challenge

Only four-wheel-drive vehicles have been allowed to travel along the broken path of N.C. 12, through pavement slabs and deep sand, since Hurricane Sandy rolled up the Outer Banks on Oct. 28.

DOT has repaired damage to the bridge that carries N.C. 12 over Oregon Inlet, and it has cleared tons of sand from a few miles of N.C. 12 on Pea Island.

But it will be harder to repair the so-called “S-curves” stretch of the highway just north of Mirlo Beach and Rodanthe.

The road has been overwashed and undermined by storms – with its protective dunes and sandbags washed away – several times in the past five years.

Sandy was followed by a series of nor’easters that worsened the damage.

“At every high tide, it was overwashing the road and going all the way across to the sound,” Barbour said. “Saturday or Sunday was the first time the high tide didn’t go across the road.”

Stanley R. Riggs, a coastal geologist at East Carolina University, has documented the steady retreat of the Outer Banks in the face of the advancing Atlantic.

Standing on the beach at the Rodanthe S-curves Tuesday, he said DOT has run out of room to rebuild the highway there.

The S-curves themselves mark the places where N.C. 12 has been rerouted in recent years.

“In the last 50 years, it’s been moved to the west at least three times here,” Riggs said. “There’s nothing left of the island. It’s all marsh on the back side.”

Long-term plans gelling

The state is trying to move ahead on major projects intended to provide more long-term stability for N.C. 12.

In March, DOT hopes to award a contract for the first of two projects that would elevate parts of N.C. 12 high above the ocean that regularly washes over the road.

The plan, at an estimated cost of $107 million, would lift a 2.3-mile section of the highway 25 feet above the present roadway, in an area on Pea Island between Oregon Inlet and Rodanthe.

It would replace a 600-foot temporary steel bridge erected last fall over a breach opened in the island by Hurricane Irene.

A second contract, to be awarded in August, would do the same thing along the S-curves area north of Rodanthe.

The cost estimate of $119 million could change when DOT makes its choice between two alternatives: Elevate the road on its present location, or swing it toward the west, curving out over Pamlico Sound and back onto Hatteras Island, to rejoin the present highway in the middle of Rodanthe.

Legal fights stall repairs

Meanwhile, legal challenges have delayed a planned $216 million replacement for the deteriorating Bonner Bridge, which links Pea and Hatteras islands to the northern Outer Banks and the mainland beyond.

This month, lawyers for two environmental groups went to court to challenge the Coastal Resources Commission’s refusal to consider their arguments against a permit DOT needs to build the bridge.

Riggs said the idea of moving N.C. 12 over Pamlico Sound at Rodanthe would probably provide longer protection against the encroaching ocean. But he favors a long-term approach that could use an improved ferry system to connect the mainland with Hatteras Island.

“The road needs to leave the island here, and we need an alternative high-tech ferry system that can keep people in business down here,” Riggs said.

He shouted on his cell phone to make himself heard above the din of four-wheel-drive tow trucks hauling tourists’ cars up the ruined roadway. Repair crews were at work a few hundred yards away.

“If they keep throwing sand bags on it and repaving it, the next storm is going to do the same thing,” Riggs said. “They’re not going to solve it dumping a little sand here, because the island has moved west.”

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Nov 282012
 

Published: November 28, 2012

Pirates will be a big plus in Big East

Caulton Tudor – Staff Columnist – ctudor@newsobserver.com

By the time ECU begins play as a Big East football member in 2014, the league will resemble the Conference USA of 2012.

It turns out that the Pirates will be changing addresses while maintaining much the same competitive company. But be that as it may, the school and its thousands of loyal, long-suffering fans won with Tuesday’s news of the pending relocation.

To have been left behind in the gutted Conference USA lineup when Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist and Tulane were moving on to the Big East would have been demoralizing and costly.

 

Big East television money will be considerably less than the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC but still more than ECU could have made as the primary bread winner in the diluted C-USA.

And as much and as often as the Big East has shunned ECU over the years, the league will benefit more from the Pirates’ football presence than any of the other C-USA newcomers.

Cable television market size and ESPN are the driving forces behind all expansion and realignment, which is why ECU has been skipped over so many times.

But at some point the college football business model has to place at least a degree of emphasis on the actual product and game atmosphere. That’s where ECU will bring more to the Big East table that it takes.

The Pirates will arrive with the Big East’s largest fan base, the league’s best traveling fans and a program that should win seven or more games each season even while tackling aggressive non-league schedules.

For now, ECU athletic director Terry Holland faces the challenge of finding homes for other sports, but that problem could be resolved easier than it sounds now. If – as expected – the Big East loses Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut to other leagues, an all-sports option could fall ECU’s way fairly fast.

In a perfect world, federal and state lawmakers would have enough common sense to restore geographic and academic sanity to college sports and conference affiliations nationwide.

The current dynamic works in such a manner that taxpayers are bankrolling athletic plants that are being used by television companies to rake in billions of dollars.

No school or group of fans have been more abused by those strong-arm conference and cable networks over the years than ECU.

Tuesday, the Pirates finally caught a long overdue break.

Tudor: 919-829-8946
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Nov 282012
 

By Associated Press, Published: November 27

The Big East moved quickly to replace Rutgers and braced for more possible departures, getting Tulane and East Carolina to agree to join the re-invented conference in 2014.

“I would go as far to say as this is a historic day for Tulane University … the Big East is coming to the Big Easy,” school President Scott Cowen said Tuesday.

Tulane, in New Orleans, and East Carolina, in Greenville, N.C., will make it six Conference USA schools to join the Big East in the last two years.

Rutgers announced a week ago that it would leave the Big East for the Big Ten. Cowen and athletic director Rick Dickson said serious talks with the Big East began about a week ago.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity to join a national conference,” Dickson said.

ECU athletic director Terry Holland said an offer to join the Big East came Sunday.

“It was a quick turnaround,” he said.

Rutgers would like to join the Big Ten by 2014, along with Maryland, but the Scarlet Knights have left their departure date from the Big East ambiguous. Conference bylaws require members to give the league notification of two years and three months before departing, but the Big East has negotiated early exits for Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia in the past year.

West Virginia joined the Big 12 this year. Syracuse and Pitt will begin play in the Atlantic Coast Conference in September.

With Maryland leaving the ACC, there has been strong speculation that Connecticut or Louisville will be the next to leave the Big East as the Terps’ replacement.

If either does, the conference is still on target to have 12 football members in 2014, just not the same ones it will have in 2013 when the new Big East debuts.

“We’re not finished,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said. “We obviously have some other plans for expansion.”

The Big East is also on the open market, trying to negotiate a pivotal new television contract. Aresco said that had to be put on hold for a few days as the conference regrouped after the latest defection.

Boise State and San Diego State, currently in the Mountain West, are set to join for football only starting in 2013, anchoring the Big East’s new West Division. Also on schedule to join next season are current C-USA members SMU, Houston, Memphis and Central Florida.

Navy has committed to join the Big East for football in 2015. The conference had planned to find a 14th member to balance out its divisions even before Rutgers left. BYU and Air Force were top targets for that spot.

Aresco said that the Big East could even expand to 16 members, depending on what schools are available.

“We have to let that play out,” he said.

Officials from San Diego State and Boise State have said they are still committed to joining the Big East. Boise State President Robert Kustra reiterated that position in a statement Tuesday.

“The Big East is proactively responding to the national changes in conference affiliations, and Boise State remains committed to building and competing in a strong Big East future,” he said.

Boise State and SDSU officials have expressed a desire for the conference to add more schools out West.

“We absolutely will be looking at some western schools,” Aresco said.

The Big East’s membership also includes seven schools, including Georgetown and St. John’s, that either do not have football teams or don’t compete at the FBS level, but have helped it become a premier basketball conference.

Tulane seems an odd choice based on the school’s recent performance in football and men’s basketball, the two most prominent sports.

The Green Wave haven’t been to a bowl game since 2002 and last made the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1995. Tulane just completed a 2-10 football season under first-year coach Curtis Johnson.

It hasn’t always been this way for Tulane. Cowen said in the decade before Hurricane Katrina devastated the school in 2005, forcing it to shut down for a semester, Tulane won more sports championships than any program in C-USA.

Cowen said it took three years for the university to fully recover.

“Once we recovered financially and academically, we invested heavily in athletics,” he said.

He said the school has sunk $125 million into the athletic department for facilities and coaches. Tulane will open a new on-campus football stadium in 2014, which the school hopes will rejuvenate interest in the team.

The Green Wave currently play their home football games in the Superdome but have struggled to draw fans. Tulane’s average attendance for home games was 18,085 this season.

The Big East has been trying to gather as many major television markets as possible and New Orleans comes in at 53rd-largest in the country. Tulane also provides a regional rival for Memphis.

East Carolina has been a consistent winner in football and looked to get in the Big East for years. The Pirates have played in a bowl five out of the last six years and finished 8-4 this season, just missing out on a trip to the C-USA title game. The Pirates also have no problem drawing fans, with an average attendance of more than 47,000 per home game.

Holland said East Carolina’s next step is to find an “equally exciting and competitive environment for the 18 sports other than football.”

Conference USA had already replaced the previously announced departing members. Next season Louisiana Tech, Florida International, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio will join C-USA, giving it 16 football schools.

In 2014, Old Dominion will join C-USA, and Charlotte is scheduled to join with its fledgling football program in 2015.

“To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have been made at this time,” C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said. “We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially led process to evaluate our future options.”

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Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAp

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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