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View from the East
Thursday, April 11, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Pirate Club: Middle-aged and healthier than ever


The East Carolina University Educational Foundation, better known as the Pirate Club, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The group was originally known as the Century Club and 37 attended its initial meeting in 1962.

Since then, membership has grown to around 8,000 members who provided about $3.2 million in unrestricted funding last year. Of that total about $2.3 million went to fund athletic scholarships, about 82 percent of the total cost of athletic grants at ECU.

In the brochure touting the Pirate Club's 40th anniversary, Ed Casey, an original member of the fund-raising group said, “Back then, people were either for Duke or Carolina. We’d ask people for money, and they’d say, ‘I’ll give it to you but you can’t tell anybody.’ We definitely have an easier time finding contributors today.”

Dennis Young, who played football at ECU in 1966-67, became Executive Director of the Pirate Club in 1991. Under his leadership, the Pirate Club has raised more than $22 million for capital improvements, including the expansion of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and building the Strength and Conditioning Center, which is on the verge of opening.

Too often in ECU athletics, our focus may be on coaches and strategy, on players and performance, or on prospects and recruiting. But the simple fact is that without guys organizing the ongoing fund-raising efforts in the Pirate Club offices on the third floor of the Ward Sports Medicine, the machinery of Pirates athletics would quickly grind to a halt.

Guys like Mark Hessert, associate director of the Pirate Club; Matt Maloney, assistant director; and Mick Crawford, field representative, keep the financial wheels of the athletics department greased and rolling, while solid technocrats like Pete Triebenbacher, systems coordinator, track a mountain of data.

And then there are grass roots workers like Perry Hudson, a former ECU student who has kept a special place in his heart for Pirates athletics. Hudson’s job is recreation director for the city of Dunn but his passion has become recruiting members for the Pirate Club.

Hudson was approached in February, 2001, about becoming a Pirate Club representative. He signed up 43 new members his first year and was named Pirate Club rookie rep of the year. He’s at 50 and counting on new members this year and got 40 renewals among the 43 he signed up last year.

“I don’t know what he’s doing but I’d like to clone him,” Young said.

“The thing about Perry is that he doesn’t mind asking people,” said Walter Williams, whose record of supporting ECU athletics earned him enshrinement in the ECU Hall of Fame last year. “You’ll never find out if someone will join if you don’t ask them.”

Hudson likes getting to know players and coaches, and working behind the scenes to help their programs.

“You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem,” Hudson said. “The solution is getting on board and supporting the university. ... Somebody telling me ‘No’ doesn’t bother me.”

Hudson has gotten different responses to his overtures on behalf of the Pirate Club.

“Some people will give you a credit card number within five minutes,” he said. “Some people, it’s like pulling eye teeth. Some people want to do it but you have to work with them to set up a payment plan. One perception among young people is that they think you have to give a million dollars to be part of the Pirate Club.”

Gifts of that magnitude come along occasionally but the grass roots contribution level is much lower and the number of grass roots members accounts for the substantial portion of the membership rolls.

The growth of ECU athletics over the past 40 years has been remarkable. It couldn’t have been done without the mostly-silent partnership of the Pirate Club. The group links a cross section as diverse as the university community itself. But they all have something in common — a love of ECU athletics and a desire to support the Pirates.

“C-Rob” waiting for the draft     <<< Top of Page >>>

Since the 2001 football season ended, ECU senior defensive back Charlie Robinson has been working on a writing assignment for his major, exercise physiology, and hoping to get the attention of an NFL scout or two. Robinson, a New Jersey native, as is his roommate, David Garrard, has signed with New Jersey-based athletic representatives, Premier Management Group (PMG), the same agency that is representing Garrard and Pirates running back Leonard Henry.

Robinson had 12 solo stops and 13 assists for ECU last season, including two tackles for losses. He ran a 4.47-second time for 40 yards in a workout for the Pittsburgh Steelers at Temple on March 27. He ran a 4.5 at a combine in Chicago.

Robinson said he was disappointed with ECU’s 6-6 record for the 2001 season but can’t specify one particular reason for the Pirates’ .500 performance.

“I think everybody is a little disappointed,” he said. “We had high expectations for ourselves in addition to the expectations that the fans had. 6-6 is not a typical year for an East Carolina football team. It’s disappointing to have a bunch of talent and not do better.

“All in all, everybody was disappointed from the freshmen to the people who were playing their last year. We had a chance to do something special, win the conference and create excitement about East Carolina football for our fans as well as the rest of the country.”

What happened?

“I don’t think you can pinpoint any one fault,” Robinson said. “Nothing happened during the season that was a breaking point. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometime. We jumped out to a bunch of leads against about everybody we played but it was tough holding on, whether it was moving the ball on offense and running the clock or protecting the lead on defense.”

Despite a slightly-underachieving senior year, Robinson wants to play more football. He’ll be watching the NFL draft with interest on April 20-21.

“Basically everyone (quarterback Garrard, linebacker Pernell Griffin, running back Leonard Henry, linebacker Greg LeFever) is waiting around for draft day,” Robinson said.

LeFever, incidentally, improved his draft stock with his 40 time on pro day in Greenville, running a 4.6. Being drafted doesn’t ensure a pro career and not being drafted doesn’t exclude a player from making it on the next level. As ECU coach Steve Logan has said, sometimes the best opportunity is to sign as a free agent with a club that needs a player’s particular skills.

Briefly .....     <<< Top of Page >>>

Tom Herrion, the Virginia assistant who became head coach at College of Charleston on Tuesday, is the younger brother of ECU men’s basketball coach, Bill Herrion. ... If one game points out the need for a larger baseball stadium at ECU, it will likely be the North Carolina game in Greenville next Wednesday night. Look for fans to be standing among the bushes beyond right field, an annex of “The Jungle.” ... Point guard Adam Boone has apparently seen handwriting on the wall in Chapel Hill and announced his intentions to transfer out of the UNC program. ... Rocky Mount wide receiver Mike Mason, a rising senior, has made an early commitment to North Carolina. Mason, who had 62 catches for 952 yards with 10 touchdowns as a junior, had reportedly gotten interest from ECU, Notre Dame and Virginia. ... Conference USA is scheduled to make an announcement this afternoon about its bowl tie-ins. Visit “Bonesville” on Friday for the details.

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02/23/2007 12:57:27 AM

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