East Carolina’s athletic department social media hashtag is “ECUndaunted.”
The Pirates, for sure, are undaunted when it comes to their approach to pursuing membership in the Big 12. You can throw in unabashed and uncanny, too.
The school is conducting a campaign on its social media platforms to tout the reasons it deserves strong consideration. Associate athletic director for external operations Shelley Binegar is coordinating the ongoing effort that began last week when Big 12 presidents directed Commissioner Bob Bowlsby to study expansion.
Fellow American Athletic Conference schools Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, UCF, UConn and Tulane also are in the discussion of candidates if the 10-team Big 12 expands.
If those schools have voiced interest, East Carolina has all but shouted its desire.
Among the Pirates’ messages: ECU leads the AAC in number of donors and donations, average football attendance over the last five years is highest among Group of Five members, and ECU can deliver a large television market. ECU also pointed out it would make an “excellent travel partner” with West Virginia.
“If we do nothing and we don’t get in, then we have ourselves to blame,” Binegar said Thursday. “If we do everything we can and we don’t get in, then we’ll feel like we’ve done everything we could. We’re just not willing to do less. It’s important for our fans, for our student-athletes, coaches, community and state to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to make a push at this.’ To be honest, we’re not going to apologize about it. We think we deserve to be in. So why not be a little bit assertive in showing off our good points?”
Binegar acknowledged that East Carolina is fueled by the hope of garnering the prestige and big money that would come from being in a Power Five conference.
Chancellor Cecil Staton wrote a letter to Bowlsby on Tuesday to express ECU’s interest. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and state Attorney General Roy Cooper also wrote letters of support.
American Commissioner Michael Aresco said it’s a sign of the conference’s strength that so many of its members would be considered possibilities if the Big 12 expanded. He said there are no hard feelings.
“They’re doing what they feel they need to do,” Aresco said. “We’re all friends, and we still will be when this is over. We all understand the pressures they’re under. And I think they’ve appreciated that I’m sensitive to that.”
Binegar said she knows there is a fine line East Carolina is walking in so boldly proclaiming it wants to change conferences. She said the American has been good for the Pirates.
“It doesn’t mean ‘I don’t like you guys,’ ” she said. “You have to look out for what’s best for your program, university, city, state. What would be best would be going to the Big 12 for us. If we don’t get the offer, we’re very happy where we are. We don’t want to say we don’t want the offer. We want them to know we would be interested and that we would really want that.
“You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so you might as well ask for it. If the answer’s no, it’s no, and you move on. If there’s a shot at it being a yes, you have to take the shot.”