ECU bids for Big 12 expansion amid stiff competition

Earlier this month, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby announced the plan to add multiple teams to the conference. He said the ACC’s lubricative TV deal with ESPN sparked the decision to bring aboard two or four more members.

Specific teams in the running for these openings include BYU, Houston, Colorado State, Memphis, Cincinnati, UCF and USF and Connecticut. 

A few days ago, East Carolina joined the fray. The ECU Athletics Department released a series of tweets making their case for a spot in the Big 12.

Even North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and opposing candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper made their presence felt in a letter to Bowlsby.

“East Carolina University is positioned both institutionally and athletically to be a successful and valuable member of the Big 12 Conference,” McCrory wrote. “Our state has a rich tradition of public universities with both excellent academic prowess and deep commitments to intercollegiate athletics. East Carolina University follows in that rich tradition and is prepared to strengthen that legacy.”

Cooper did much of the same praising.

“Academically, ECU is an institution of higher education with nationally recognized undergraduate, graduate, and medical programs,” he penned. “It is a critical component of the crown jewel of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina higher education system. In addition, ECU Pirate Athletics is a source of pride for fans across North Carolina.”

One could argue for the inclusion of ECU due to certain features, like monetary value measured through total revenue earned or overall fan base displayed by home field attendance numbers.

Eastern Carolina’s standard attendance of 45,814 over the past five years compares well to the Big 12 average over the last three years—57,941. Of the teams listed above, only BYU has a higher average attendance (58,966) than ECU, while none of the other squads exceed 37,000-people home crowds.

As for revenue earned, the Pirates’ total of $48,918,305 is higher than Houston, Colorado State, Memphis and South Florida’s tallies. Here, ECU has the upper hand over nearly half of its competitors.

Location is another factor, although not entirely significant. ECU definitely is convenient in this sense, considering its closeness to the rest of the Big 12 as opposed to Connecticut or BYU.

However, naysayers of East Carolina will bring up a very important point: a school needs a well-rounded sports background, and ECU fits that description less so than frontrunners BYU, Houston and Cincinnati.

Within the American Athletic Conference (AAC), ECU failed to have enough success as of late, finishing the 2015 football season with a 3-5 conference record, second-worst to UCF’s 0-8 record. South Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Houston and Memphis triumph on this front.

In the end, East Carolina certainly doesn’t stand out from the crowd aiming to compete in the Big 12.

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