Brunk brings baseball experience

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Give Dave Brunk a minute and he'll speak for an hour about his main passion: baseball.

New Peach Belt Conference commissioner Dave Brunk will have visited every Peach Belt school by Friday.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
New Peach Belt Conference commissioner Dave Brunk will have visited every Peach Belt school by Friday.

The first-year Peach Belt Conference commissioner, a lifelong New York Yankees fan, will tell you he believes former Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens is telling the truth, despite detailed allegations of steroid use.

Brunk will tell you about the time he called baseball owner and promotional genius Bill Veeck.

Brunk will also show you the mostly unpacked memorabilia around his office.

On the floor sits a framed picture of Jackie Robinson walking in front of Ebbets Field. On his bookcase are figurines of Derek Jeter and Don Larsen, along with numerous baseball books.

Brunk officially became the Peach Belt's second commissioner July 1, when he took the reins from Marvin Vanover. Brunk, a former owner and operator of minor-league baseball franchises for Kansas City and Pittsburgh, came from the Massachusetts-based Northeast-10 Conference.

He has visited nine of the 11 Peach Belt Conference member schools. By Friday, he will have visited all of them.

Since his arrival, the Peach Belt logo and the league's Web site have been redesigned. The Peach Belt also has added a second Web site (www.peachbeltsports.tv) which offers online streaming of league basketball games.

In a recent conversation with The Augusta Chronicle , Brunk discussed an array of league issues, including adding conference members and sports, as well as the issue of pay-per-view athletics.

What's your early impression of the Peach Belt Conference?


A: "What we have as a league, from the presidents, athletic directors, their staffs, the coaches, the student-athletes, we really have a first-class conference. It's been very enlightening and refreshing working with everyone. Case in point is the willingness and acceptance everyone has shown me. When I've been making my visits to individual campuses, I make a point to individually thank them, because it could be tough with a new person coming in with new ideas, a new vision. I just really appreciate everyone getting behind what we're trying to accomplish and really keep moving the Peach Belt forward."

The Peach Belt currently has 11 members. Is there a certain number you'd like reach?


A: "Expansion is in the forefront for the conference. My philosophy has always been we don't want to expand for the sake of expanding. It has to be the right fit, academically and athletically. I also feel we need to be protective of what we have in the core group right now.


"From a number standpoint, I would like to end up with an even number. That way, we can break off into divisional play, and it'd really help in terms of our scheduling and cost containment as well. Maybe in the next two, three, five years, we could get up to 14 teams."

The Peach Belt Conference is based in Georgia, and there are several schools in South Carolina, as well as UNC Pembroke. Where would you look for schools?


A "Conceivably, we'd like to look to the north or northeast of us or to the east. That would kind of help alleviate some of the travel issues the schools on the outer reaches have. From the geographic proximity of divisional play, we'd be able to work out a situation that would be palatable for everyone. I'm just interested in finding those that again would be a good fit for us.


"In the best of both worlds, we'd have another one or two in North Carolina or a couple in South Carolina. That would be ideal. But if someone in Alabama or south Georgia or in Florida might have an interest and we may have an interest also."

The Northeast-10 has 23 sports. The Peach Belt has 12. Are you looking at adding any new sports in the future?


A: "We're going to be starting the discussion as to what would be some feasible sports. There are several schools that already sponsor women's golf. Is that something we want to take a look at? Some are sponsoring men's and women's outdoor track. Maybe we'd take a look at that."

What about football?


A: As you know, UNC Pembroke has football. Would the Peach Belt add football? Of course, to be recognized as an NCAA sport that we'd receive credit for, six is the magic number. We'd need five more institutions. From a cost standpoint, is that feasible for our membership? Each president would have to make that determination."

The Peach Belt now offers basketball games through the Internet for $5.95 each. What was the decision behind that?


A: "We want every institution to really have the opportunity to promote their product. The company we're working with (Penn Atlantic) has the top quality video streaming in terms of you won't find any buffering at all. It's television quality.


"Next year, we're looking at expanding it to the volleyball championship. We could conceivably do our soccer championship. We want to provide a pre-basketball tournament show on our Web site.


"It really opens the door down the road for the Peach Belt Hall of Fame. We're hopeful to get that finalized and have the first induction dinner and ceremony in spring of 2009. That is something we could televise or stream. There's just so many opportunities for us to promote who we are and what we have to offer."

What do you see for the future of the Peach Belt basketball tournament?


A: "I see an opportunity for our championship to just explode and grow from the marketing standpoint. There's already things we're making mental notes for. This is a golden opportunity again to showcase who we are as a conference.


"Maybe you're thinking along the lines of whether we should go to a neutral site instead of a campus site. I think I'd maybe have something more to offer as regard to that question after I get this first year under my belt."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

DAVE BRUNK

AGE: 58


NOW: First-year Peach Belt Conference commissioner


THEN: Former Northeast-10 commissioner; also owned and operated minor-league baseball franchises for Kansas City and Pittsburgh


FAMILY: wife, Brenda; daughters Ashley (27) and Alexis (16)


FAVORITE SPORT: Baseball


FAVORITE TEAM: New York Yankees


INTERESTS: Tennis, running, traveling and reading


DIE-HARD OPINION: Believes Roger Clemens didn't use steroids


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