FOR THIS one glorious Monday, I declare myself an unpaid consultant for conference realignment. For those willing to accept my wisdom, I will save your conference or institution scads of money and wasted energy.
If you decline this offer, suit yourself. But I have repeatedly scanned the wide-ranging landscape of Conference USA, and have reached a critical conclusion.
There is one, and only one, legitimate candidate to leave C-USA and ascend to the annoying, perpetually entrenched institution that is the Bowl Championship Series. Or more correctly, to a BCS AQ league.
(One word here: Ugh.)
Anyway, there is one school who has earned the right to advance to the next level.
Congratulations, East Carolina University.
You've aggressively upgraded your facilities and have expanded Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to 50,000 seats. Your fan base travels very well to bowl games. Looooove that "purple haze" opening; it's almost as good as Virginia Tech's "Enter Sandman" ritual.
You've scheduled the right way in football for years, taking your lumps but giving a few. You've earned home games against nearby state rivals. And you didn't back out of a Miami series - shoot, you beat the Hurricanes in 1996 and 1999.
(One of my all-time favorite football moments is when ECU had to move its '99 Miami game to Raleigh because of Hurricane Floyd-related flooding, the Pirates won and their fans ripped down one of North Carolina State's goalposts.)
We can live with that albatross of a basketball program, I guess. South Florida needs a hoops rival in the Big East. Your baseball program and its ballpark will perk up any league, however. I discount the TV market dynamic because your fan base is a little more widespread than Greenville, Washington and New Bern, N.C.
When the Big Ten picks off Pitt in its expansion to 14 teams, ECU is ready to go to the Big East immediately. The two-time Conference USA champs have earned it.
There are several applicants which your unpaid consultant must reject. These were very difficult decisions.
Oh, you got me. I am lying. It was too easy.
Let's start with you folks at the University of Memphis. You're the best argument against the concept of an all-sports conference. The Tigers' basketball program should be admitted to the SEC today, as its hoops pedigree and NCAA compliance history is a perfect fit.
But the football program? Go to the Sun Belt, directly to the Sun Belt. Do not pass go, do not collect $200,000.
It doesn't impress me that FedEx is preparing to underwrite everything, including your sleep patterns. It does not impress me that you hired Mike Tranghese in 2009 to surreptitiously lobby the Big East. It does not impress me that you have the Liberty Bowl, a better stadium than you deserve.
Take away the basketball program and you're a Sun Belt program in C-USA clothing.
Your football pedigree is somewhere between Eastern Michigan and Arkansas State, the latter of whom almost owns you. You've been hammered by Middle Tennessee twice. You have that Liberty Bowl, but don't bring in anybody but Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Tennessee, who bring in thousands of their own fans.
And what football talent you don't lose to SEC schools, you squander. You had DeAngelo Williams and still lost four times to UAB. You had a receiving corps the wild, wild C-USA West would have loved, yet couldn't get them the ball.
You had a midweek ESPN home game and could have fit the crowd at whatever high school at which you practiced during Marshall week.
Application denied. Next up, the University of Central Florida.