CHRONICLING ECU & C-USA SPORTS
from the 'ville
January 5, 2006
By Al Myatt
Challenges ahead growing in
The impact of athletic director Terry Holland
on major sport scheduling at East Carolina has been underscored during the
recent progression of football bowl games and in the Pirates' latest
The demands of the 2006 ECU non-conference
football schedule intensified as all four programs the Pirates will face
next season — Virginia, West Virginia, Navy and N.C. State — obtained
valuable offseason momentum with bowl triumphs.
The Pirates will be at home next season to
Virginia and West Virginia. The Cavaliers rallied for a 34-31 win over
Minnesota in the Music City Bowl, while the Mountaineers held off favored
Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl for a 38-35 triumph.
ECU will travel to play Navy, which rolled
past Colorado State 51-30 in the Poinsettia Bowl and NCSU, which posted the
only shutout in the postseason, 14-0, over South Florida in the Meineke Car
Care Bowl in Charlotte.
Holland's dual intent in future scheduling to
renew regional rivalries and compete against bowl opponents has been
achieved on both fronts for 2006. West Virginia is currently No. 6 in the
Sagarin power ratings, Virginia is No. 31, State is No. 32 and Navy is No.
East Carolina, which capped a 5-6 season with
wins over Marshall and UAB, is No. 92 among 239 Division I-A and I-AA teams
in the Sagarin listings.
The improvement curve the Pirates established
in their first season under Coach Skip Holtz obviosly must be maintained.
That was made clear to Holtz from the get-go.
"When we first came in and met with Terry
Holland and Chancellor (Steve) Ballard, the expectations of where we want to
go with the schedule that we are playing, the insinuation was that we are
going to have to step it up," Holtz said in his postseason summary. "We are
a long way away from where we need to be because it will only get harder as
The success of future ECU opponents in the
postseason doesn't make ECU's task any easier. Upcoming adversaries have in
effect had an extra spring practice while Holtz's staff has been focusing on
recruiting. The Pirates did get a head start on 2006 preparations by
starting offseason weight lifting before Christmas.
The 2006 season will start over the Labor Day
weekend in Annapolis, MD, according to an official source, against a Navy
team that will feature running back Reggie Campbell, whose six TD's helped
the Middies' option attack riddle Colorado State.
The Pirates are expected to play at
Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh over the Thanksgiving weekend and the
Wolfpack will provide an indication of just how far ECU has progressed since
a 52-14 loss to State in Charlotte closed the John Thompson coaching era in
Holtz has no illusions about the magnitude of
the task at hand.
"We have made some strides but the hurdles
that we have left to climb are just as high as the one that we just
climbed," said the Pirates coach. "You'd like to think that that we made
some progress, but we are still a million miles away from being able to
compete at the level in which we are stepping into next year."
The last week also has represented new
beginnings — and one happy ending — in basketball scheduling.
The Pirates played UNC-Wilmington for the
first time since Feb. 17, 2001, and parlayed a large first half lead into an
inspired 82-69 win in Greenville. ECU dropped 8 of 16 attempts from behind
the arc, causing Seahawks coach Brad Brownell to say that his program had a
breakdown in its scouting evaluation of the Pirates' shooting ability.
ECU stopped playing UNCW after the Pirates
left the Colonial Athletic Association for Conference USA, partly because
former ECU athletic director Mike Hamrick resented the Seahawks for joining
other CAA members in blocking the Pirates' participation in the 2001 league
tournament. Former ECU coach Bill Herrion wasn't interested in continuing
the series because of the extreme challenges he had to deal with against the
old membership in C-USA.
But Brownell, first-year ECU coach Ricky
Stokes and Holland have all expressed interest in continuing the UNCW-ECU
"The ADs want to play twice next year,"
Holland said. "At noon there and at 7 p.m. here."
Then Holland suppressed a grin.
"Think the folks at ESPN would take notice of
that?" he said. "We'd like for them to know we're here."
The folks at Wake Forest certainly took notice
of ECU's return to the Deacons' schedule on Tuesday night in Winston-Salem —
the first step in Holland's efforts to line up area ACC opponents in
basketball. Wake coach Skip Prosser had to resort to a 2-3 zone defense over
the final nine minutes to help his club pull out a 58-54 win.
The Deacs also benefited from ECU having no
timeouts to make adjustments over the final three minutes. Pirates point
guard Japhet McNeil made a mental mistake in the closing seconds as he drove
for a lay-up attempt rather than kick out to the wing for what could have
been a tying 3-point shot with Wake leading 57-54.
Deacons forward Trent Strickland admitted that
the officiating crew gave Wake a break by denying the Pirates possession
after the ball went out of bounds off of Strickland's foot at the ECU end
with the score tied at 54.
The Pirates suddenly look capable of making
things interesting against No. 4 Memphis in ECU's C-USA opener. That's in
Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum at 7 p.m. next Wednesday.
Stokes' role defined by Holland
Holland is obviously in firm control of ECU's
athletic future from making schedules to hiring coaches to facilities
development. Coach Stokes has been used to Holland's leadership going back
to his playing days at Virginia.
Asked if he had ever struggled to the extent
of the 2-for-15 shooting effort by UNCW's John Goldsberry on Saturday,
Stokes quipped, "Coach Holland told me just to play defense and get the ball
to Ralph (Sampson). Fifteen shots was a career for me. I never took that
many shots in a game."
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