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Don't miss Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, October 4, 2004

By Al Myatt

You don't tug on Superman's cape

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Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate




The oldies station occasionally reminds us that you don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind, and you don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger ...

The East Carolina football program might want to make an addition to Jim Croce's melodic list — that being: you don't stomp on an opponent's midfield logo.

Incoming athletic director Terry Holland, given his high standards of conduct, will likely insist on it.

Nationally-ranked Louisville indicated that ECU's pregame actions had served as some additional motivation in the Cardinals' 59-7 romp at Papa John's Stadium on Saturday.

The reaction from ECU football coach John Thompson was that the situation was no big deal.

Trying to sort out what happened is a little bit like police officers who get two different versions when arriving on the scene of a domestic dispute.

ECU runs a pregame punt coverage drill that ends up with all the Pirates converging on the return man at midfield with everyone jumping up and down in a sort of spirit huddle.

Louisville players may have interpreted the move as a slight directed at them in regard to the school Cardinal logo painted at midfield. The Pirates did the same thing at West Virginia, which leaves the question of how such actions might be perceived by the opposition.

"I've never seen a team show such a lack of class and be 0-4," junior linebacker Brandon Johnson said in a report in the Louisville Courier-Journal. " ... They were standing on our bird and didn't move."

Thompson said there were actually two pregame instances in question.

"There was nothing on the deal with the punt return," said the ECU coach. "That has nothing to do with the opposition. We do that every game."

Louisville media painted the pregame dustup as justification for the Cardinals' running up the score — which included passing for their last two scores after building a 42-7 lead and kicking a field goal in the last two minutes.

"That's why you don't do that stuff," Cards defensive end Elvis Dumervil said vindictively in confirming that the blowout proportions were in response to pregame hostilities.

Louisville linebacker Robert McCune indicated in the Louisville paper that an ECU player spit on him. Reporter Eric Crawford's account also said ECU players were shouting insults.

Thompson said he was about 20 yards from midfield and saw the incident. He said he didn't see anything that he thought was out of line from his own players.

Thompson said Louisville players actually initiated the circumstances that fanned emotions.

The real problem apparently stemmed from a pregame ceremony Louisville conducts known as the "CardMarch," in which the Cardinal players walk across the field to the John Unitas Center at the end of the stadium.

"We were on the field first and had a group standing at midfield," Thompson said. "They (Louisville players) walk through the middle of the field. I guess they thought we were supposed to get out of their way. All it was I think was some talk and maybe some bumping. I didn't see any spitting and I was watching from about 20 yards away."

Thompson said he didn't think last year's circumstances at the end of a 36-20 Louisville win in Greenville contributed any fuel to the emotional fire that ignited on Saturday. Thompson called timeouts last year in the closing stages with his team two scores down. The Cards broke an off tackle play for a touchdown to pad the final margin.

Thompson's used last year's postgame handshake with Cards coach Bobby Petrino as an opportunity to let him know he didn't appreciate the late score.

"Why were you calling timeouts?" Petrino shot back before heading for the locker room at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

"That was last year," Thompson said Sunday. "This is this year."

Still, this year's postgame handshake between the coaches may have set a records for brevity and lack of eye contact, according to Denny O'Brien of

"After the game, some of their guys ran to midfield and did a bunch of hollering," Thompson said. "Maybe that's how they celebrate. Maybe walking down the middle of the field before a game is one of their traditions, too. I don't know."

Thompson said only the Louisville coaches would know if their late scores Saturday were related to last year's postgame confrontation.

"They're ahead 56-7 and kick a field goal with 1:47 left," Thompson said. "I guess getting that 59th point was important to them. That's all right. It's our job to stop 'em. Our job is to block the field goal or to try to keep them from getting in field goal range."

The Bowl Championship Series may have negatively impacted the Pirates once again. Membership in a league without a guaranteed berth in the BCS already affects revenue, recruiting and exposure.

But another adverse effect was evidenced on Saturday in terms of Louisville continuing to add to its margin. With the computer factor relating to margin of victory reduced in the BCS standings and more weight placed on traditional rankings, BCS wannabees like the Cards make their case with the poll voters through eye-popping margins of victory whenever possible.

With the Cards moving to the Big East next season and the series with ECU concluding with yesterday's matchup, Petrino obviously had no concern about the Pirates having an opportunity for future retribution.

There are downsides and possible repercussions from the pregame spat. It certainly won't do anything to enlist Louisville as an ECU advocate if the Pirates are ever considered for a much desired possible future opening in the Big East.

ECU historians will recall Louisville originally blocked ECU's entrance to Conference USA. The incident Saturday ruffled Cardinal feathers once again.

Investigating the incident may well be one of Holland's first official acts as athletic director. That won't get Thompson off to a positive start with his new boss even if his players are as guiltless as the coach contends.

Holland has said an evaluation of Thompson will consider what shape the program was in when Thompson arrived. ECU's 1-15 record thus far under Thompson is the reason Holland is getting questions about the football coach. Holland can be expected to have low tolerance for coaches whose teams don't toe the line in terms of discipline.

The Pirates probably needed to get out of the way in regards to Louisville's pregame tradition. The time to get in the way would have been during the game to slow up the Cards' pass rush or on defense to keep another opponent from amassing a huge number in total offense.

Thompson was reviewing film on Sunday, working to find solutions to a myriad of execution problems. A win on Saturday against Tulane would certainly help to alleviate the wave of criticism that has developed during an 0-4 start to a season in which Thompson said the team would be improved.

ECU needs to do its talking with its pads during the game — which the Pirates surely neglected to do on Saturday — and leave the smack dialogue to pro wrestling. Especially, if the Pirates aren't going to back it up.


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02/23/2007 12:46:39 AM

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