ECU to join Big East for football in 2014
Posted November 27, 2012
Greenville, N.C. — East Carolina University will play football in the Big East Conference in 2014, and Tulane will become a full conference member. Both universities, current members of Conference USA, announced the moves on Tuesday afternoon.
“ECU is excited to become a football member of the Big East Conference,” said ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard. “We know we will be successful and add value to the Big East."
"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.
ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland noted that a football-only membership opened the door to C-USA for the Pirates, and said, "A number of other successful programs, including Virginia Tech, received their opportunity through a football-only membership in the Big East.”
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 will remain eligible for a Conference USA bowl berth in 2013.
After that, they can anticipate Big East postseason tie-ins including the Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, Fla.), Belk Bowl (Charlotte), New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, N.Y.), BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Ala.), AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tenn.) and Beef ‘O’ Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg, Fla.).
“They (ECU) have a strong football tradition and a consistently successful program that will help elevate our football league immediately," said Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco.
ECU brings a large and loyal fan base. Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium averaged 47,000+ per game in 2012, a mark that would slot them in third among current members of the Big East.
Tulane is a more confusing choice. The Green Wave haven't been to a bowl game since 2002 and last made the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 1995.
Though 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, the Green Wave play their home football games in the Superdome, but have struggled to draw fans. Tulane's average attendance for six home games was 18,085 this season.
Conference turnover continues
East Carolina and Tulane become the fifth and sixth C-USA schools to join the rebuilding Big East in the last two years.
Rutgers announced last week that it would leave the Big East for the Big Ten. 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 left the Big East for 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 move from Big East to fill that spot.
If either does, the conference is still on target to have 12 football members in 2014, just not the same ones as it will have in 2013 when the new Big East debuts.
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 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.
Officials from San Diego State and Boise State have said they are still committed to joining the Big East but have expressed a desire for the conference to add more western schools.