Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New bowl agreement won't help ECU

An agreement announced today between the Big East Conference and the AutoZone Liberty Bowl could add up to bad news for ECU and its Conference USA rivals.

The Big East has moved in as a option for the Memphis game, which will be played on Dec. 31 this year.

The league will have the option of sending a team to the Liberty Bowl or to the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

Both games will choose from a pool of teams that includes the SEC, Big East and Conference USA. Previously, the Conference USA champ faced an SEC foe in the Liberty Bowl. The Big East will place a team in the Liberty Bowl at least once, but perhaps more often than that, during the next four years.

The CUSA champion Pirates played in the last two Liberty games, losing by close outcomes to Arkansas last season and to Kentucky in 2008.

There was no immediate reaction today from Conference USA, which is headquartered in Irving, Tex. The league had six bowl berths in 2009.

With the Liberty, the Big East now has seven possible games — the BCS, the Champs Sports Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the New Era Pinstripe (Yankee Stadium) and the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.) in addition to the Liberty and Papajohns.com games.

Last season, Conference USA had six spots, but none more prestigious than the Liberty.

The good news for the 12 Conference USA teams is that the Liberty opening will fall to sixth in the Big East's pecking order. And with only eight football members, the Big East may not be able to qualify six teams. In 2009, Louisville and Syracuse both finished 4-8 overall and failed to gain postseason eligibility.

With a new coach, Ruffin McNeill, and heavy personnel losses from last season's 9-5 team, the Pirates will be a long shot to repeat as CUSA champ. The likely preseason favorites will be Southern Miss and Marshall in the East Division and Houston and Southern Methodist in the West.

ECU's non-league schedule features Virginia Tech, North Carolina, N.C. State and Navy; the Pirates will be fortunate just to finish 6-6 overall. In league play, however, the Pirates have a chance for a smooth start under McNeill, a former defensive back star for the school.

His first two games will be in Dowdy-Ficklen against league foes Tulsa (Sunday Sept. 5, 2 p.m., ESPN2) and Memphis (Sept. 11, time to be announced later).

-- Caulton Tudor, caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com


Anonymous said...

Why no mention of the 3 ECU players drafted in the NFL draft?

Anonymous said...

That's not accurate about the Big East agreement. It states that the Big East will send teams to two out of three bowls - Liberty, Papajohns, and St. Pete. This will be a rotating agreement, similar to the Gator Bowl agreement between the Big East, Big XII, and Notre Dame.

CUSA will probably get shut out one year out of four.

Additionally, the Big East pecking order is really established by the conference - the league office pretty decides who goes where so the same team(s) aren't playing in the same bowl year after year because the destinations the Big East had weren't exactly awesome (Toronto, Birmingham, St. Pete, Jacksonville sucking and Charlotte being the best city). It's a little different now with Orlando, Charlotte, NYC, Memphis, St Pete, B'ham and the BCS site.

MichaelProcton said...

Not correct, 8:42. The bowl organizers get their choice in order.