So ECU is the #5 school in the state because the rest of the teams are in the ACC? Duke has no pull in football as most of their alumni are out of state and people really only care about Duke because of basketball. When coach K retires lets see how good Duke is and if they can continue their success. To say Duke and Wake Forest has a bigger pull in the state because they are in the ACC is ludacris. If some magical way ECU is invited to the SEC tomorrow do they automatically become the #1 team in the state? Its crazy to use the 4 ACC teams in the state when Houston and SMU are being added to a state that has A&M, Texas, TTU, Baylor and UCF is being added to a state that has Florida, Florida State, USF, and Miami(Yes I know orlando and houston are considered bigger markets)
When looking at fan bases and their impact (travel to bowl games, home attendance, merchandise sales) its easy to see that the pull/draw looks something like this.
2. NC State
ECU is not a national brand but in no doubt in my mind is ECU a regional brand because it brings a good chunk of NC, parts of SC, and parts of VA. Are they the number 1 draw in Raleigh? No. But they definitely should get credit for partially bringing raleigh as well as charlotte. Again I am not saying ECU delivers the whole market of these two cities but the TV ratings do not lie when the pirates are on TV(I believe ECUs bowl game against Arkansas had a stat on a great viewing audience) and when ECU plays NC State or UNC there is more buzz throughout the state compared to when these schools play Wake and Duke.
The real question I want to ask you Quinn is lets say the big east makes the mistake in your mind and adds ECU. Does ECU all of a sudden become the 3rd team in the state because they are in the BCS? I think this all about perceptions and politics and for whatever reason ECU is looked at as small time to the big east or the administration must have stepped on their toes along the way.
The problem is that being in 3rd place in North Carolina, which isn't a great football state overall, doesn't do very much for the powers that be. Even if you were to completely ignore Duke and Wake Forest, just having UNC and NC State alone takes up a massive amount of media and fan base oxygen. Just look at other states. There's a huge drop-off in fan base size after Texas and Texas A&M in the state of Texas, and that's a massive population base with about the most football-crazy people out there. Third place in the state of California is between Cal or Stanford, yet their fans are really just concentrated in the Bay Area alone. Third place in the state of Illinois is Northern Illinois. Western Michigan doesn't get a prize for being the third most followed team in the state of Michigan. The strongest third place team in a state is arguably Miami, and that fan base is still more localized in South Florida as opposed to the entire state. So, when it comes to the casual (AKA T-shirt) fan that drives TV viewership, most markets really only pay attention to one or two teams at the most and then there's a significant drop-off. North Carolina has a unique basketball culture where it has high interest in all 4 of the state's ACC teams, but I don't find that to be the case in football.
It's not the primary reason why ECU isn't in the Big East, but it's a part of it.