East Carolina Chancellor Steve Ballard spoke at the school's State of the University address Tuesday where he commented on the merger/alliance between the Mountain West and Conference USA. Ballard goes on to say that the new league is expected to have four divisions and wants to add Charlotte as their local rivals.
As you know, we are working on the possibility of a new athletic conference, which at some point would merge the old Conference USA with the Mt. West conference. This merger touches some raw nerves in the Pirate Nation because, quite frankly, we have never received the national respect that we have earned on the playing fields. But we should all remember this: Bad decisions made externally only means that there are bad decision-makers out there.
Unfortunately, the way athletic conferences choose new members is no longer a rational process. As one commissioner said to me, "We no longer have athletic conferences, we only have TV partnerships." Because of the overwhelming influence that large TV contracts now have on college sports, ECU does not control and indeed can barely influence the factors that dictate conference alignment. As the author Meg Wheately said, "IN THIS ENVIRONMENT, IF YOU'RE NOT CONFUSED, YOU'RE NOT THINKING CLEARLY."
So here is where we stand in terms of a new conference.
First, if this merger is successful, it could be stronger than the old CUSA and it will probably be more stable.
Second, members of the new conference recognize the importance of regional rivalries; they are committed to adding more teams with the goal of ensuring 4 divisions of geographical proximity. We look forward to playing long-time rivals such as Marshall and Southern Miss and to adding several eastern universities to our schedule. Hopefully, one will be Charlotte.
From the sounds of this it looks like the Mountain West and Conference USA merger is going forward and if there are four division then there will probably need to be four to six teams in each division to make sense. So, more teams will be on the move to this league, someday.