11/29/12 — Pirates' move to Big East in football expected to be a challenge

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Pirates' move to Big East in football expected to be a challenge

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 29, 2012 1:49 PM

East Carolina stuck its toe in the water, but didn't completely dive in Tuesday afternoon.

The Pirates still made a big splash, though.

Athletics director Terry Holland and Chancellor Steve Ballard announced that ECU will become a football-only member of the Big East in 2014. It's a brilliant move that will undoubtedly improve the program's stock and help increase revenue.

The decision comes during a tumultuous 18-plus months where the college landscape has undergone a drastic reconstruction due to realignment.

"It is our intention for today's announcement to be a strong first step toward finding the best competitive environment possible for ECU's nineteen varsity sports," Holland said during Tuesday's press conference. "Big East football provides an opportunity to renew old rivalries and begin new ones, both of which will be exciting for our players, coaches and fans.

"The changing conference circumstances in today's intercollegiate athletics landscape practically ensures that our quest will always be a journey and not a destination."

Just what will that destination be?

ECU is heading into a high-profile conference that desperately needs to revive itself since West Virginia's departure to the Big 12 and Rutgers' move to the Big 10. Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville will migrate to the ACC and Connecticut remains indecisive about its future in the Big East.

The Pirates are 31-45 all-time against Big East opposition before and during realignment. ECU claimed back-to-back Conference USA championships in 2008 and 2009, and shared the CUSA East Division title with UCF this fall. Six bowl trips in the last seven years, an average of seven wins per season since 2008 and a challenging schedule against automatic-qualifying BCS programs are feathers in the program's cap.

Still, ECU must significantly change its "model" of football since it will have access to one of the largest national media markets in the nation. The administration can't settle on mediocrity within the program and the coaches simply have to get better across the board.

Recruiting undoubtedly becomes vital.

The fan base has always been loyal and travels well, but settling for a team's best effort -- win or lose -- can't be enough now. And applauding a team that barely reaches bowl-eligible status is definitely unacceptable.

While this may not be the ACC, you now have your chance ECU. It's time for the Pirates to become "real" players on the national scene and erase that "red-headed stepchild" syndrome that's followed the program for so many decades.