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Conference USA sports: Hamrick remains confident in league

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Tulane and East Carolina may be leaving Conference USA, but Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick feels the conference will be fine.

Hamrick expressed confidence in Conference USA leaders that they'll do what' is best for the remaining schools. For now, he said, his focus will remain on improving the Thundering Herd program.

"I just worry about things that I can control," Hamrick said when reached Tuesday, "and right now what I can control is raise money to build the facilities that we need to be competitive. We're continuing that with our Vision Campaign, and we're not letting up one bit."

The Big East made another surprise raid on C-USA on Tuesday, when Tulane announced it would join in all sports and East Carolina would join as a football-only school, both in 2014.

Tulane's academic reputation and its inclusion in the prestigious Association of American Universities made it attractive, as did its location in New Orleans.

Tulane's football and men's basketball fortunes haven't been great in recent years. The football team hasn't won more than five games in a season since 2002. Under new Coach Curtis Johnson, the Green Wave went 2-10 this season. The men's basketball team hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since 1995 or the NIT since 2000.

East Carolina's football team has been one of C-USA's cornerstones. The Pirates have reached six bowls in the past seven seasons, winning back-to-back conference titles in 2008 and 2009. Under head Coach Ruffin McNeill, ECU finished 8-4 this year, beating Marshall 65-59 in double-overtime in the regular-season finale. The Pirates are headed to either the New Orleans Bowl or the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla., depending upon who wins the conference title.

In a statement released Tuesday, C-USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said the conference remained committed to its plan of a student-athlete friendly, major-market, two-division conference.

"To be clear, we have several options but no new member agreements have made at this time," Banowsky said. "We appreciate the support of our members and will immediately begin a presidentially led process to evaluate our future options."

The Big East had swiped Houston, Memphis, the University of Central Florida and Southern Methodist. Those four schools will join the Big East in 2013.

In response, C-USA brought in Charlotte, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Florida International. The schools all join in 2013, with ODU starting in football in 2014 and Charlotte starting in football in 2015.

In a statement Marshall released Tuesday, Hamrick praised C-USA's addition of Charlotte, Old Dominion and FIU and felt "the trend of expanding with the right institutions will continue."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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