College Sports in the Carolinas
Don't miss Al Myatt's
profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004
from the East
Friday, September 17, 2004
By Al Myatt
Scheduling strategies deal
ORDER ONLINE NOW!
PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
One problem with non-conference football games is that they are often
scheduled so far in advance that the strengths of the programs involved can
change significantly by the time the teams actually meet.
For example, East Carolina has games contracted with North Carolina which
will be decided by players currently in middle school. The Pirates' contract
with N.C. State includes a game in 2016. Some of the kids who will line up
in that one still have their baby teeth.
You know what happens to the best laid plans. They often go awry.
It seems fairly safe to say that ECU's current slump losses in 15 of its
last 16 games was not envisioned when former athletics director Mike
Hamrick signed off on the 2004 schedule.
But while North Carolina was opening its season at home against Division
I-AA William & Mary and N.C. State was dismantling an overmatched I-AA foe,
the Pirates were preparing to open the season at Top 10 power West Virginia.
"The schedule is what it is," said ECU coach John Thompson, refusing to
blame the futuristic roll of the dice that determines non-conference
What the schedule is, however, is unfortunately not what the ECU program
needs at this point. If ever there was a time the Pirates needed a beatable
I-AA foe at home to acclimate personnel, evaluate systems and gain
confidence like their in-state neighbors it was this season.
A game with with say, a James Madison or a Furman, could have gotten ECU off
on the right foot but instead the Pirates were immersed in a cauldron of
national championship aspirations in Morgantown, West Virginia, home to one
of the most physical football teams this side of the NFL.
It's not likely that Thompson mailed any thank you notes to Hamrick out at
Nevada-Las Vegas for that assignment. Not that Hamrick deserves any blame.
When the contracts were made, ECU was probably more capable of competing
with the Mountaineers on their home field.
Wake Forest seems to have come up a winner in its recent scheduling with the
Pirates. The Demon Deacons got consecutive home games with ECU in 2002 and
2003. This season Wake came to Greenville but they caught the Pirates after
a thorough tenderizing.
Jenny Craig would approve ECU's current non-conference schedule. There's
nothing fattening in the way of a creampuff. N.C. State has revitalized
since Chuck Amato arrived following a 23-6 loss to the Pirates in Greenville
in 1999. Meanwhile, East Carolina has made a u-turn in the other direction.
The Wolfpack looms at the end of the tunnel this year Nov. 27 in
At the moment that's not a pleasant thought for ECU faithful in terms of
in-state bragging rights.
The Pirates have traditionally scheduled "up" quite a bit. As an independent
between 1977 and 1996, the Pirates were booked at locales such as Miami,
Florida State, Auburn, Washington and Tennessee.
A number of East Carolina teams have been capable of stunning the big boys
Missouri in 1983, Miami in 1996 and the Hurricanes again in 1999.
Playing the powers, usually on the road, means a nice paycheck and it's an
opportunity for recognition. It's where ECU has lived for much of its
But an awareness of ECU's growing pains at the moment tempers any excitement
personally about next year's trip to Morgantown. Thompson said the Pirates
also will travel to Wake in 2005. Duke will be on the schedule with the Blue
Devils making their second trip to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Thompson and Duke coach Ted Roof, incidentally, are good friends.
You have to credit Thompson's former program, Southern Miss, for its road
win at Nebraska last Saturday. That made Thompson's preseason Conference USA
pick Jeff Bower's program look a little stronger. The Golden Eagles'
slogan is "anytime, anywhere" in regard to scheduling. ECU has operated
under a similar philosophy over the years.
But the Pirates could use a break in their non-conference scheduling until
JT and his program are a little farther along in the rebuilding process.
In the NFL, the teams with the poorest records have the softest schedules
the following year. Too bad it doesn't work that way in college. ECU might
be matching up with Alcorn State, Prairie View and Beaver Cleaver's
neighborhood team after that 1-11 struggle in 2003.
But there is hope. Future college schedules aren't set in stone,
particularly when television interests are involved. Virginia Tech moved a
game set for this season at LSU to 2007. The game Duke will play in
Greenville next year also was postponed from an earlier date. Kentucky wrote
a buyout check rather than playing at ECU in 1998.
So maybe there's a chance that the Pirates won't be so schedule-challenged
in 2005. With Terry Holland using his influence as the new Pirates AD,
perhaps ECU could take a raincheck on next year's trip to West Virginia.
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02/23/2007 12:46:30 AM