Wasting no time attempting to get their foot in the door left open by Pitt and Syracuse, East Carolina announced Wednesday they had applied for membership in the Big East. From a statement by ECU athletic director Terry Holland:
"East Carolina University will always maintain a proactive approach in regards to positioning itself for future success, and the fluidity of current conference realignment possibilities is no exception."Openly announcing that you've applied to a different conference is a curious definition of "remaining focused" on succeeding in Conference USA, we'd argue, and when we say "openly" we mean it. Contrast the continued (open) secrecy of, say, West Virginia's attempt to join the ACC or SEC with e-mailing 50 different media members the news of your application before the Big East has even had a chance to give it a serious thought -- it arrived the same day ECU announced they'd put it in the mail -- and you'll see how badly the Pirates want to be taken as a serious candidate for Big East expansion.
"While we have formalized our interest in Big East Conference membership as a viable option, ECU will remain focused on competing at the highest level through the efforts of Conference USA."
But this is nothing new for the Greenville, N.C. school. Back in 2008, the Hartford Courant reported that ECU officials would be willing to make a stunning number of concessions if the Big East would give them their big break at the BCS level.
Among the offers allegedly on the table: that ECU would forgo entirely their share of Big East revenue on a "trial basis," so that conference revenues for the res tof the league remained constant; forgoing any shared BCS bowl revenue until the Pirates made a BCS bowl themselves; provide its own television contract so as not to interfere with the league's existing deal; guaranteeing the sale of 2,500 tickets to their Big East away games; and possibly more.
"We would agree to all of that and others," a "prominent ECU supporter" told the Courant at the time. "Our partnership could be described as a 'hand-in' partnership rather than a 'hand-out' partnership. We wouldn't be asking for anything except the opportunity to prove ourselves as good and productive partners of the eight institutions playing Division I-A football."
Would the Pirates still be as desperate today? With the Big East in a position of lesser strength and stability, then-Pirate head coach Skip Holtz now at South Florida, and the economy making finances more tricky for football programs outside the BCS, it seems far less likely ECU administrators would be willing to make quite that big a gamble on a league with so many question marks still to be answered.
But it nonetheless goes to show that Wednesday's application announcement isn't the first time the Pirates have attempted to beat down the Big East's door. And if the conference once again passes over the Pirates (this time in favor of teams like Navy and Air Force), expect ECU to try again whenever the opportunity presents itself again.
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