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ECU joins Big East for all sports

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

East Carolina will join the soon-to-be-renamed Big East as an all-sports member, instead of just for football as originally planned.

East Carolina had already been set to join Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida and the rest of the Big East football schools in 2014. But with the recent split of the football and basketball schools, the football side is giving up the name Big East and needed to add more members for all sports.

Commissioner Mike Aresco called East Carolina "a valuable addition" in a statement announcing the move Wednesday.

"They have forward-looking leadership under Chancellor Steve Ballard and an outstanding and well-rounded athletic program," Aresco said. "Their men's and women's basketball teams have enjoyed excellent seasons and their Olympic sports are strong. East Carolina being made an all-sports member is another important step in strengthening our conference."

East Carolina, which has 19 sports, has been in Conference USA since joining that league as an all-sports member for the 2001-02 season, though its football program joined that league in 1997. It will stay there through the 2013-14 season and join its new league on July 1, 2014.

"East Carolina University is delighted to play all sports in this conference," Ballard said in a statement. "We appreciate the leadership of Mike Aresco and (South Florida) President Judy Genshaft and we look forward to working with each university."

Terry Holland has spent recent years as the Pirates athletic director working to ensure the school would have a landing spot amid the changing landscape of conference affiliations. The Big East announcement comes with Holland, who turns 71 next week, serving in an emeritus role and leading the department until the arrival of Jeff Compher from Northern Illinois as his replacement on May 1.

"Conference realignment has been an arduous journey through uncharted waters for our Pirate Ship but, with the Pirate Nation on board, we knew we would get there sooner or later," Holland said Wednesday in an email. "We now join an excellent group of institutions who relish the challenge of rebuilding the conference's status in the new world order created by realignment."

A person with knowledge of the decision says Tulsa will also be added to the Big East soon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because that move has yet to be announced.

Tulsa is expected to join by 2015, when Navy also comes aboard, and will give the league 12 schools.

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AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.

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