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November 27, 2012

ECU Moving On Up

GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina announced their entry to the Big East Conference in football only starting in 2014.

That means the Pirates will have to find a place for their basketball team to play when they leave Conference USA after next season.

Chancellor Steven Ballard and Athletic Director Terry Holland addressed the press Tuesday afternoon about East Carolina's move to the Big East Conference for football. Commissioner Mike Aresco also talked to the press via conference call during the press conference.

"We are very excited to welcome East Carolina University into the Big East Conference for football," Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said. "They have a strong football tradition and a consistently successful program that will help elevate our football league immediately. The University is an outstanding academic institution that reflects the values important to the BIG EAST Conference."

Chancellor Steve Ballard talked about the implications of joining the Big East Conference.

"ECU is excited to become a football member of the Big East Conference," ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said. "We know we will be successful and add value to the BIG EAST. While hundreds of dedicated Pirates have contributed to this day, I especially want to recognize the relentless energy of Terry Holland and Nick Floyd in making this day a reality. It is a great day to be a Pirate."

The Big East has previously announced new members that will begin play in a football league with a national scope in the 2013 season. Those schools are Boise State, UCF, Houston, Memphis, SMU and San Diego State. Tulane will also begin play in 2014, while the Naval Academy will start Big East play in 2015.

Existing teams include Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, Louisville and South Florida. The conference announced on November 13 a plan to begin divisional play and introduce an inaugural Big East Championship game in 2014.

The move to the Big East will find ECU playing football in major population areas in Florida, Texas and California with post-season tie-ins to the Russell Athletic Bowl (Orlando, Fla.), Belk Bowl (Charlotte, N.C.), New Era Pinstripe Bowl (Bronx, N.Y.), BBVA Compass Bowl (Birmingham, Alabama), AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tennessee) and Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl (St. Petersburg, Florida).

The Pirates joined C-USA back in 1997 after a couple of seasons in what was known as the Liberty Bowl Alliance. That grouping contained many of the current and past Conference USA members. ECU joined for football in 2001.

"ECU is excited to become a football member of the Big East Conference," ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said. "We know we will be successful and add value to the Big East. While hundreds of dedicated Pirates have contributed to this day, I especially want to recognize the relentless energy of Terry Holland and Nick Floyd in making this day a reality. It is a great day to be a Pirate."

"It is our intention for today's announcement to be a strong first step toward finding the best competitive environment possible for ECU's nineteen varsity sports," ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland said. "Big East Football provides an opportunity to renew old rivalries and begin new ones, both of which will be exciting for our players, coaches and fans. A football-only membership provided ECU's gateway to an all sports membership in C-USA and a number of other successful programs, including Virginia Tech, received their opportunity through a football-only membership in the Big East."

The question now is where to the other sports go if they don't end up in the Big East?

Holland explained that East Carolina's next step would be to find an "equally exciting and competitive environment for the eighteen sports other than football." He confirmed ECU has not initiated contact with other conferences prior to Tuesday's announcement, but indicated the search will begin in earnest as soon as the press conference concluded.

"The changing conference circumstances in today's intercollegiate athletics landscape practically ensures that our quest will always be a journey and not a destination," Holland added.

East Carolina won two Liberty Bowl Alliance titles to earn two of their four bids to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The Pirates have returned on two other occasions after winning a pair of Conference USA crowns in 2008 and 2009 under the leadership of Skip Holtz who is now the head coach at future conference mate South Florida.

The Pirates have earned a bowl bid in six of the past seven seasons and are expected to play in either the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in Tampa or the R&L Carriers Bowl in New Orleans depending on the outcome of the Conference USA title game on Saturday between UCF and Tulsa.

"The changing conference circumstances in today's intercollegiate athletics landscape practically ensures that our quest will always be a journey and not a destination," Holland said.

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