North Carolina’s gubernatorial candidates announced Wednesday they are supporting East Carolina University’s bid for membership in the Big 12 athletic conference.
Gov. Pat McCrory and his challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, both sent letters to the conference commissioner supporting ECU. And both wrote as officeholders rather than political candidates — but face it, it’s election season.
McCrory’s letter to commissioner Bob Bowlsby stressed the large Pirate fan base and significant television market.
“East Carolina University is positioned both institutionally and athletically to be a successful and valuable member of the Big 12 Conference,” McCrory wrote. “Our state has a rich tradition of public universities with both excellent academic prowess and deep commitments to intercollegiate athletics. East Carolina University follows in that rich tradition and is prepared to strengthen that legacy.”
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Cooper highlighted the benefits to the state.
“Academically, ECU is an institution of higher education with nationally recognized undergraduate, graduate, and medical programs,” Cooper wrote. “It is a critical component of the crown jewel of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina higher education system. In addition, ECU Pirate Athletics is a source of pride for fans across North Carolina.”
Bowlsby announced on Thursday that the conference wants to expand from the current 10 teams. The conference had 12 members as recently as 2011, but was reduced after a number of teams departed and others joined.