There are good reasons East Carolina is still being prominently mentioned among the candidates for Big East Conference expansion in football.
In fact, if average home attendance were the deciding factor, East Carolina would be the most logical choice, having averaged 49,665 fans per game last season in its 50,000-seat stadium in Greenville, N.C.
- ECU football averaged 10,000 more fans per game than Central Florida and 18,000 more than Houston — two other leading candidates for Big East membership.
- ECU probably would be competitive right away, having captured two of the last three C-USA championships and making five bowl games over the last five seasons.
- East Carolina also says it would join as a football-only member, making it much easier for the conference to absorb than other candidates that have been mentioned.
The anti-East Carolina critics would say it’s all about TV sets. Houston is the 10th biggest television market in the country, Orlando 20th, and Charlotte the 24th largest market, and Raleigh-Durham comes in at No. 27, according to Station Index.
I’ll take actual attendance as a more accurate barometer of fan interest and support over the number of TV sets any day. The larger the market, the more sophisticated the cable systems, the more viewing options for viewers. Has anyone ever asked how numbers of actual fans at games would translate into TV viewers? For example, if there are 10 to 20 viewers for every fan actually attending a game, East Carolina wins this test in a runaway.
One of these days, a light is going turn on for the expansion analysts or, more likely, the advertisers. If fans aren’t attending games in Houston and Orlando, why would they bother watching them on TV?