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Will the BCS Moves Bolster or Bust our Pirates?

Mike in Durham (or as I will refer to him – MiD) provided a very thought-provoking commentary to my last post on the BCS changes that appear to be coming to fruition. I like the way he thinks.

So, I am posting them as a separate here to hopefully generate more discussion on this topic. I’ve added some of my thoughts (which I know are more on the negative side) below each point.

Please all, provide your thoughts, too, so we can get a good feel for the Pirate Nation feels about how changes may impact ECU’s future.

Thanks MiD for sharing and taking the time to give such good analysis. Though my comments are on the half-full side, I am still as excited as ever for ECU football and have high expectations for this year’s team.

From MiD:

I am bit more optimistic than some, I wont to point out a few things that will help us as far as TV$$ & our on field product (sorry a bit long):

1. Regarding changes to BCS playoff, all 11 conferences (including the 5 non-AQs) are involved in the decision making on this. The new playoff revenue estimate is at least $350M, close to twice the current BCS $$. To gain potential access to BCS games, the non-AQs had to accept a miniscule % payout before (approx 9%,to be split among all the non-AQs, with the AQs getting 91%). The Non-AQs (5 votes out of 11) are now working strongly together to ensure a much more equitable distribution, yes the Lions share will go to the big boys & they will get a much bigger %. Let’s say the non-AQs end up with 20% total, which is low (only 4% per league). With double the pie & double the %, the payout will go up 400% (from about $600k per school to well over $2M per school). Yes, the gap will grow as the larger schools will easily get 4-5 times that amount, but the non-AQs (like ECU) will end up with significantly more $$ in our athletic budget (see pt #2 below also).

RC: This is a big point that seems to be the two sides of the blade. On the one hand, anything that bolsters our Athletics budget is good by me and given our ability to squeeze more out of every dollar, all sports will benefit from this. HOWEVER, the latter point is what worries me…the GAP. We all know that whether we like it or not, it is an arms race in college football. The BCS founders know this and look how much distance has been put between us and the self-annointed elites. If that GAP grows, relatively, we may never be able to compete once the system is corrected (if ever). That worries me about this new deal.

2. The same net effect will happen when the allied MtnWest & CUSA get open market bidding on a new TV contract in 2-3 yrs, with the markets we’ll both have teams in, & competitive bidding (demand for games on NBC Sports, Fox, Comcast & other cable providers), all result in vastly increased Conference TV$$. The BE will end up getting ~$5M per school when their new TV deal is negotiated. Ours will improve from the current $1+M/yr, to close to $3M/yr. The net result is we’ll have easily $2-3M to add to our budget to help us survive & thrive.

RC: This, to me, is a bigger point and benefit to ECU, the added TV revenues are huge for us. But with a league that has so many mouths to feed, I wonder if we end up losing air time for ECU vs current TV deal and our own one-off deals. I admit that I do not necessarily have a handle on how TV deals are handled in regards to which schools get the air time. The MWC is considered a higher-tier league than C-USA and so I am going to assume that we will have less impact in programming decisions and less opportunities to show our brand within the large footprint of the alliance. That said, the extra money is helpful, but again, will pale in comparison – relatively – to even the crumbling, totally unappealing new Big East. The distance between those mediocre schools and ECU will only become more pronounced in two years time, IMO.

3. We’ve all seen the outstanding recruiting/rebuilding that Ruff & Co have done. Our talent level this yr will be vastly improved over 2010 or 2011. With more talent, experience (both players & coaches), and a somewhat easier schedule now, our team is primed to make a major step up in on-field results.

RC: MiD, this is one of the keys IMO. I totally agree about the seasons to come versus 2010-11…the coaches have laid the foundation. I also agree that relative to the past, we are primed to move up a level in consistency in numbers of wins on an annual basis. Where I worry about this is, we need to be able to do what Boise did which was to be so primed year-in and year-out for the “name games” while at the same time being so far superior to the league competition that it would be a near shocker for a team in the league to beat them. I don’s see that for us even with the notable talent upgrades that Ruff has brought in. USM has owned us in this league and Louisiana Tech is not going to be an easy win going forward. Can we get to where we ace this league EVERY YEAR, win the championship, and go 3-1 OOC every year? That is the challenge. We need to either water down the OOC (which I wouldn’t want to do) or we need to accept the fact that we will always be a team of potential, IMO. That might change (e.g., we get on top of USM this season and keep them down), but I think the new CUSA has the same problem the current one has – external perception is that the teams in the league are cupcakes so why can’t ECU and USM ace the league each year since they are the teams that belong in the AQ? We know better in terms of competition, but that is the perception and we would need to be able to regularly win 10 games to make this work towards the end we all desire. Not sure we can do that even with the talent upgrades.

4. Now let’s consider the health of the Big East, the line to get out includes, UC, UL, UConn, & Rutgers. Should that cookie crumble, we’ll be saying hello to some old friends (Memphis, USF, UCF, etc.). Also, there’s likely to be further conference shuffling / expansion….IMO, we’ll be a top candidate primed & ready to take a large step in the right direction.

RC: I think you are way ahead on this MiD (do you read tea leaves?) and as I write this, your points are coming more and more real. With Marinatto abruptly resigning and hoops schools in the Big East starting to rumble, the Big East may, indeed, crumble quickly. I may be in the minority, but I would gladly have those teams back in a revamped CUSA or better yet, a new East Coast league and still keep an alliance with the MWC and have a title game between the East and West. However, I also believe that while the BCS decision makers would like it for the Big East to crumble too (less mouths to feed), I believe they see the value in ensuring that this is a managed effort so I do not see us benefiting one way or another…sure more teams join the have nots. I prefer for us to join the haves or have a fair landscape to compete. I think you are right on with this point, but I think that the most likely net result will be a conference where we are put together with all of the eastern located best of the rest (e.g., UCF, Marshall, USM, USF, Cincinnati, Memphis, Navy, a few others…). Maybe that TV deal could propel us to a more competitive financial situation.

6 comments on “Will the BCS Moves Bolster or Bust our Pirates?

  1. These are all very good points. IMHO the timing of Coach Ruff back to ECU could not have come at a more important time. Ruff’s ability to connect with players and bring in talent is the only thing right now, that is giving me hope about ECU football going forward. Ruff gives us a brand identity like no other coach we have had. Right now we need something that sets us apart from the other teams in our football footprint, Ruff does that for us.

    In terms of the other issues, I really beleive that once we go to a four team playoff system, it will make it all but impossible for us not to move to a larger playoff system similiar to that of Basketball. Once the genie is out of the bottle, she is going to want to play lots of football! Plus the money will simply be to good to not have a 20 or even 30 team playoff.

    Finally, in terms of money and the payoff from Conference alignment and other sources, I am not that worried. ECU has a history of doing more with less. I have no reason to beleive that this will not conitue to be a reality for us. At this point, we have to continue to carve out an identity for ourselves that sets us apart from all of the other football programs in our area. I think this is way more important than who we play or even what conference we are in. We need Ruff to stay here as long possible and of course to win.

    • Thank you Sean. I know the pressure is on Ruff this season, but I believe through recruiting and coaching additions (e.g., Connors, Doll) he has put the foundation in to leave the tough start (record-wise) way behind. I am so glad he addressed his health, because he will stay as long as we will have him and his ability to connect with talented players is evident (looking at his early verbals for 2013, he appears heading to a new level altogether).

      I also agree that with the four-team playoff, the horse is out of the barn and it will expand to 8 then 16 if not more.

      Thanks again for posting…

  2. Stu Rodda

    Am I missing something? Since Ruffin took over we went from 4 winning seasons in a row with Holtz, with back to back Conference Championships, and top 30 (maybe higher in 2009) in turnover margin to back to back losing seasons, horrible defense, embarrassing blowouts to mediocre teams and second to last in the entire FBS in turnover margin. With a much easier schedule this year, I think less than 7 wins gets Ruff fired. And as for the conference realignment, I am deeply concerned that all the other quality schools have left Conference USA with us holding the bag. UCF, Houston, SMU & Memphis get replaced by UTSA, North Texas, FIU, LA Tech, and possibly Charlotte & ODU. That is huge net loss in my opinion. Granted, I don’t love what’s left of the Big East, but it’s much better Conf USA right now. I feel like ECU is crossing it’s fingers for a spot to open up in a bigger conference, but may just be left in the dust.

    • Hi Stu…first thanks for taking the time to read and drop a note.

      You are not alone in your feelings about the state of the program for sure. I think that there are some mitigating factors that have led to the last two losing seasons…Holtz’s impact – or lack thereof in regards to recruiting (and more importantly, retention of recruits), IMO, dealt the team a huge blow for 2010, leaving the defense hanging in the wind in a division where defense has ruled the day.

      I agree that this is a pivotal year for Ruff and crew – though right or wrong, I think the only thing that puts him on alert is another losing season. 6-5, IMO, leaves him locked in. I think that 8-4 should be the benchmark for getting a little squirmy given the schedule and the program’s overall talent level.

      I am not crazy about this new conference and am crafting a post on the topic…one that I am finding hard to put a positive spin on. I get it…I understand the selection of the teams…but agree that I would prefer to play the teams in the Big East currently (save a couple) than what it looks like we are going to get. I am not sure that the teams leaving are actually any better than one notch above the teams we are getting, but they carry more of a brand for sure (e.g., La Tech is a team that will compete right away, IMO.)

      I like Ruff and what he stands for, but too many people have worked too hard for too long to not judge any coach (pirate born or no) on merit of his/her tenure. So, I too am expecting a very competitive season or the writing in my space may turn more hyper-critical.

      Look forward to more of your thoughts Stu!

  3. Mike in Durham

    Ron, thanks for the kind words. You’re concerns are certainly valid ones.
    The $$ gap is our grand canyon — we must find a way over, thru or around it, or just row harder as they say.

    I’m not as concerned w/ our TV appearances (networks could televise multiple regional games) as I am w/ the TV $$ (from both the Conference & the BCS), along w/ our continued strong attendance/fan support–hopefully the networks would prefer to show an exciting game with a passionate fan base rather than an empty stadium. Besides, if we row real hard, we may make frequent appearances on TV in the CUSA/Mtn West Championship game. Your reply to point #3 is spot on, to get recognition or become ‘big time’, we must be dominate our conference (like Boise), & be ranked, steady seasons of 9+ wins (3 losses between OOC & CUSA games)–a challenge to put it mildly, but either we do this, or we continue to be an upper echelon CUSA-East team.

    Regarding the Big East, no tea leaves, just a well timed prediction. A Big East implosion would cause more conference musical chairs, which would likely help both ECU & CUSA. I agree with Sean that Ruff is a special man & coach, & wish him great success. As far as an expanded playoff, IMO, we’ll be lucky to see it grow to 8 teams in 3-5 years, it’s been like watching snails race in the Kentucky derby, can’t imagine how long it would take to get to 16 teams. I hope I’m wrong here & the genie is out of the bottle, rubs the magic lamp & makes that wish come true. Thanks Ron (& Sean) & Go Pirates!!

    • Thanks MiD…please continue to drop in and share thoughts.

      I am wondering if once the dollars start being realized with the four team playoff if the expansion happens due to money not the need for a true champion? Money speeds things along…


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