Well, the tea leaves are not looking all that good for the Pirates in this whole Big East thing. If Boise State takes the bait and goes to that league, they will solidify the league’s AQ status and ECU will be left in the barren wastelands of the left outs.
[ Please forgive me, but this one is a LONG one ]
After enduring all the laughs coming from the likes of UCF and in-state, non-supportive sister universities, we will have to, once again, set our football course. What will that look like and how will we go forward?
I still say that we need to model ourselves after Boise State. Ask yourself, how does the “other” school in a remote state like Idaho, seemingly pull together top talent and sustain so much success on the field? How is it that they are not cast in the directional school box?
Well, you needn’t look to far as some of BSU’s formula was employed by ECU just after we failed to get into the Big East during Dave Hart’s stint as AD.
One of the big components of BSU’s rise to stardom was ESPN. The Broncos have enjoyed a stellar relationship with College Football’s dominant network since they were part of the blah WAC, just as the Pirates enjoyed our own exclusive ESPN contract backthen, which were pretty good years for the Pirates.
BSU simply did a better job of it than we did. Their formula was pretty sound and it is one we can repeat, honestly. See if this follows.
1. We get left out of the BE and are left in a merged MWC and CUSA league whose prime teams are…ECU, Tulsa, USM, Nevada and Colorado State.
2. With 22-some teams, the TV opportunities will be there and yes, we will have to play on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, but we will get exposure again, nationally.
3. We water down our OOC schedule. See on thing Boise State did for years, was pile up wins against a weak, weak, schedule. And face it, call it luck or call it a chip, but the few times they played a real team, they found a way to win.
4. Sacrifice attendance for victories. I know, it shouldn’t be this way, but if the Pirates could win that league 3 or 4 years in a row with only a loss or two each season, we would be the BSU of the future. We would get bigger recruits and we would get exclusive ins to the BCS suite, just as BSU has.
This was their basic formula. Win a slew of easy games, prepare for the one or two big ones you have every two or three years and win them. Market the hell out of your program. Take whatever TV opportunities you get.
We took another path. When we had the ESPN contract, we put anyone, anywhere on our schedule and we took our lumps. It got us exposure, but it also got us a lot of losses. You can only be an upstart for so long before the media changes your personality into a team that takes it lumps from the big guy but gives it a good effort.
Now, what do we need to implement the BSU plan? That is a little tricky.
There are three components to it, and I am not sure that the Pirates have all three at the moment, but here goes:
1. A fierce and seasoned leader or leaders. Between Ballard and Holland, this is a resounding checkmark in the “got it” category, if they are willing to take a new tack in our course. Holland, particularly, has the goods to set in motion a plan that would drastically change the W-L quotient via scheduling and the moxie to get a good TV deal done with ESPN either exclusively or via the merger. An outside-looking-in ECU, I think, would be something ESPN would once again go for. ESPN and ECU have had a good, mutually beneficial relationship over the years.
2. A coach who has an offensive and defensive philosophy that he knows like the back of his hand and has the ability to find top-50 talent in the rough to execute his schemes. This one, as much as I love Ruff, I am not sold that we have in place. Chris Petersen at BSU is a coach that knows how to execute what he wants to execute and knows EXACTLY what players he needs to execute it.
3. Marketing. We need a new marketing angle. Undaunted was nice and purposeful. We need more of that focused on the new world we are about to find ourselves in. Now, I am not for a purple field, but, I am for taking whatever TV we can get and for pushing every dollar we can get into branding ourselves beyond the Virginia-NC-South Carolina coastal footprint we have right now. We need to cross-leverage our academic strengths and our athletics and mine every corner of the country to find the right players.
It only takes a four-year run. In a weak conference where we are gearing every year for two games: Southern Miss and the Merger Championship. Every other game should be a cakewalk game. One we win in our sleep. IF we did this and ran that table with a, for example, 10 win, 10 win, 11-win, 12-win stretch, while enduring the label of “having not played anyone,” I promise you the national TV opportunities would exponentially increase and our access to players would increase. By year five, we would be the new BSU, only we would have a deeper national brand because ECU is already known. Of course, we would have to win the bowl games and that is where some luck is needed. If you look back, BSU for all of its strategic maneuvering, has gotten its share of serendipity. But, that is part of the formula.
We need to implement this approach. We tried the anyone, anywhere, anytime and it served us well, but the BCS has taught us that these are not the things that are valued.