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View from the 'ville
Thursday, September 25, 2008

By Al Myatt

New controversy swirls around rivals

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

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. 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 games.

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.

Horning said N.C. State received a letter of agreement this summer that “was basically a letter from Terry to us.”

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 contention.

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 Conference.

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.

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09/25/2008 02:52:31 AM


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