It seems the two parties in the North
Carolina State-East Carolina football series have struck a note of
discord once again.
A contract dispute between athletic
directors Lee Fowler of the Wolfpack and Terry Holland of ECU is the
latest flare-up in a rivalry that was suspended because of crowd control
issues after a 32-14 Pirates win in Raleigh in 1987.
The two programs met in the Peach Bowl
at the conclusion of the 1991 season with ECU capping an 11-1 record
with a come-from-behind 37-34 victory. With some legislative assistance,
the teams resumed the series in 1996 in Charlotte with the Pirates
romping to a 50-29 triumph behind the running of Scott Harley.
State made its first trip to Greenville
in 1999 and ECU won 23-6 in what proved to be the final game for Mike
O'Cain as Wolfpack coach.
The Wolfpack is 3-1 against the Pirates
in this millennium after a
30-24 overtime win last
Saturday. State leads the overall series, 16-10.
NCSU added 250 additional security
officers for the game with the Pirates and about four dozen fans were
escorted from the premises during the contest, according to reports.
Fowler's radio comments on Wednesday
generated the latest controversy regarding the number of future games
which are scheduled between the two programs. Fowler told Raleigh-based
99.9 FM that games with ECU were scheduled for 2010, 2013 and 2016.
Holland sent out an e-mail through the
ECU sports media relations department later Wednesday that there were
signed contracts for games in 2009, 2012 and 2016 in Greenville as well
as contests in Raleigh in 2010 and 2013.
"Until there is a different schedule
mutually agreeable to both teams, ECU is prepared to continue honoring
that contract and expects N.C. State to do the same," Holland said.
Holland scheduled games with the
Wolfpack in addition to those contracted by former ECU AD Mike Hamrick.
WRAL.com reported that Dave Horning,
State’s senior associate athletic director for men’s sports, had said
that the schools agreed over the summer to change the dates of two
Horning oversees scheduling for the
Pack football program and said the games scheduled right now were the
three Fowler referred to on the air.
“We had an agreement with the athletics
departments [to move some dates], which I still believe is the case,”
Horning said N.C. State received a
letter of agreement this summer that “was basically a letter from Terry
Horning said that the two AD's have an
amiable relationship and expressed confidence that the issue can be
discussed and resolved.
The game on Saturday was a classic even
though it didn't go the way Pirate fans would have wanted. It was way up
there on the intensity meter. For Pack fans who try to minimize their
program's passion for playing the Pirates, the emotion displayed in the
late stages of regulation play and overtime demonstrably refuted that
State coach Tom O'Brien didn't downplay
the accomplishment of rallying past the Pirates, who were 3-0 and ranked
No. 15 coming into the game.
“There are 12 games you play, but
certainly the hype around certain games is much larger than others,"
said the second-year Pack coach. "So it is a bigger game than say
Clemson or William & Mary, because it is East Carolina.
"Certainly, the year they've having —
they've already beaten Virginia Tech, who was ranked. They beat West
Virginia, who was ranked. They came in here ranked again, so it
certainly is a big deal for this football team and for our school that
we won this game.''
The emotion surrounding the State-ECU
rivalry may be the highest of any in the state, a factor that helps
recruiting at both programs. Players like to have the opportunity to
perform in such atmospheres.
C-USA should be the focus
One unfortunate aspect of the
uncertainty regarding the N.C. State series is that it provides an
unanticipated distraction at a time the Pirates need to be focusing on
their Conference USA game with Houston at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium at 3:30
p.m. on Saturday (TV: CBSCSN).
Hopefully, the misunderstanding that
was being played out in the media between the State and ECU
administrators wasn't affecting the Pirate players who indicated that
their attention needed to shift to the Cougars in the aftermath of the
disappointment in Raleigh.
"We've got to build on this loss," said
ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney in the visitors interview room at
Carter-Finley Stadium. "We've got to come together as a team and work
harder in practice. We've got to take one week at a time."
Norman Whitley had the longest run by a
Pirate this season when he went 42 yards for a third-quarter score that
put ECU up 21-14.
"It's disappointing," Whitley said of
the outcome in which the Pirates got just three points out of two
fourth-quarter possessions inside the State 5-yard line. "At the same
time, it keeps us humble and knowing that we've got to try even harder
to get where we want to go.
"We all know that's how life is. If you
want to go somewhere, you've got to work hard and do it. Who said the
road was going to be easy?"
The Pirates haven't won a conference
championship since 1976 when ECU was a member of the Southern
The road in C-USA certainly hasn't been
easy for ECU. Losses
at Rice and
Marshall the last two seasons
have derailed league title aspirations.