I’ve never been to Greenville. Neither have a lot of the state’s top high school football recruits.
I hear they know how to party at East Carolina, and I also hear they really like their football.
In fact, they like it so much, the Pirates believe they should be in a BCS conference.
ECU athletic director Terry Holland has displayed this wish so flagrantly that if and when the Pirates get their application turned down once again by the Big East, it will take embarrassment to another level.
The Pirates want so badly to be big-time, but their problem is they don’t have “it.”
UNC senior defensive end Quinton Coples summed up “it” pretty well on Monday. The Kinston native grew up in “Pirate Country” and knows a thing or two about how their fans think.
“They just think that (UNC players) got it made,” Coples said. “They think that we didn’t really work for anything. ECU players think that way. We take it and let them know that we had the same opportunities. Everybody came out and we worked harder than them obviously to get here.”
ECU’s situation is a precarious one. The Pirates know they aren’t the Tar Heels’ archrival, and they also willingly accept that they can’t compete against UNC — or really any other ACC school — at any sport other than football.
The Conference USA school knows it’s not a top academic institution, and the Pirates also don’t complain about the school’s name (see: University of South Carolina).
But ECU sure does show some heart. Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium holds 50,000 fans, and ECU turned out 49,404 for Virginia Tech and an apparent standing-room-only crowd of 50,023 against Alabama-Birmingham last Saturday.
Pirate fans are planning a blackout for Saturday’s 8 p.m. match against UNC, and Greenville is sure to be rocking since the game sold out more than a week ago. On Saturday, Pirate fans will wish to conjure up the magic from four years ago when they packed the stadium to 101 percent capacity.
It was 2007 when ECU took down the less-than-mighty Tar Heels in a 34-31 decision at home. It was Butch Davis’ second game as head coach and T.J. Yates’ second game as quarterback. Despite UNC handling the Pirates in two subsequent games, ECU fans hold that win close to their hearts.
This week, Holland sent a precautionary statement to Saturday’s fans warning against the “unsporting behavior” in which they previously had partaken during last year’s 33-27 overtime win against N.C. State.
But the best part of Holland’s letter of caution comes in the penultimate paragraph.
“Please do your part to welcome all guests to our campus – every visitor will have relatives who are potentially future ECU students and student-athletes,” he wrote.
Pirate fans, don’t be on your best behavior because it’s the right thing to do. What a silly concept.
Instead, your athletic director wants you to refrain from shouting expletives at those in Carolina Blue because somewhere down the road, those Tar Heel fans may have a son or nephew who will run so smoothly, pass so efficiently or sack so mercilessly that a BCS conference will finally accept ECU as a member school.
Keep dreaming, Greenville, and work a little harder to get to big-time before you send another application to a BCS conference.
Contact Jonathan Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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