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ECU looks to boost reputation with bid to join Big East conference

East Carolina University is hoping to up its game.

The school, currently a member of Conference USA, submitted a bid to join the Big East athletic conference last week. Administrators say it could boost the schools finances and athletic reputation.

ECU’s bid follows announcements from the University of Pittsburgh and Syracuse University, which intend to leave the Big East and join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“It’ll prove our status athletically,” said Steve Ballard, ECU’s chancellor. “Being part of one of the five big conferences will reflect the prominence of our university. The Big East would reflect who we are.”

Ballard said the plan to switch conferences has been in the works since athletics director Terry Holland arrived at ECU in 2004.

University administrators say the possible move to the Big East conference could bring in extra revenue from expanded TV coverage.

“Anytime you go into a bigger conference with a bigger TV market, the budget will be positively affected and that leads to building our athletic program,” Ballard said.

ECU had to travel as far south as Texas to play schools such as the University of Houston and the University of Texas-El Paso in Conference USA. But now teams’ travel schedules will shift farther north to play games against schools such as Rutgers University and the University of Connecticut.

ECU sophomore Robert DiDomenico said joining the Big East would give the school more legitimacy.

“It’s going to put our school in the spotlight, he said. “We’re going to attract better players and get to play better teams.”

Chuck Sullivan, director of communications for the Big East, said he’s unsure when ECU’s bid might be accepted.

“It can happen in five minutes; it can happen in the course of a period of months,” Sullivan said.

Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement that the conference is well-positioned for the future.

“We have been working steadily to solidify and strengthen the Big East Conference and position us for our upcoming TV negotiations,” he said.

And Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said in a statement that the organization will focus on improving services for universities, student athletes and fans if ECU leaves.

“East Carolina aspires to ultimately be in a ‘BCS conference,’ and they have been open with us about that,” Banowsky said.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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