Comedian Steve Martin played an
unaffectedly simple character in the 1979 movie, "The Jerk." His name
was Navin Johnson and he became quite excited to see his name in the
fine print of one of Ma Bell's directories.
"The new phone book's here!" Navin
proclaimed. "The new phone book's here!"
East Carolina's new football schedule
was released on Wednesday, and no doubt the enthusiasm of some Pirate
fans reached a similar scale as they finally could focus on opponents
and dates for the encore to ECU's Conference USA championship season in
The non-conference portion of the 2009
gauntlet had already been announced and it is a testimony to the
influence and vision of athletic director Terry Holland. He has revived
the long dormant rivalry with Appalachian State to start the season in
Greenville on Sept. 5.
The Mountaineer faithful will latch on
to any available tickets making the matchup a financial success. It also
will generate considerably more emotion with both fan bases than any
other football championship subdivision team the Pirates could schedule.
East Carolina's rivalry with the Apps predates its series with N.C.
State by 38 years.
ECU's first football team back in 1932
went 0-5 and the final loss that season came by a 21-0 margin in Boone.
The Pirates didn't beat the Apps until 1952. Up to that point, the
Mountaineers led the series 10-0 with some one-sided results such as a
64-0 thrashing in 1939 and a 47-0 pounding in 1948.
ASU leads the series 19-10 but the two
programs haven't played since ECU took a 38-21 win in Boone in 1979. The
Pirates had charted a course in the major college ranks after whipping
ASU 35-7 in 1976 to capture the Southern Conference championship.
The Mountaineers have chosen to remain
on the Division I-AA/FCS level quite successfully, winning three
straight national titles until they were derailed by eventual champion
Richmond in the 2008 playoffs. ECU has made plenty of noise in the
Division I-A/bowl championship subdivision since the two programs on
opposite ends of the state stopped butting heads.
The echoes are still reverberating from
ASU's monumental 34-32 win at Michigan to open the 2007 season. The
Pirates will certainly not take their season opener lightly in 2009 with
respect to that outcome nor will the Mountaineers sneak into Greenville
as a bona fide underdog.
While ASU and ECU have only a one-game
contract at present, Holland has indicated he would like to play the
Mountaineers more often. The Apps replaced N.C. State on the ECU
schedule for next season.
"The scheduling rearrangement to move
the home game with N.C. State to 2010 and to play Appalachian State at
Dowdy-Ficklen in 2009 allows us to have six home games in both 2009 and
2010," Holland said. "The previous schedule would have required us to
play seven road games in 2010.
"The non-conference road schedule for
2010 would have been games at N.C. State, at North Carolina and at
Virginia Tech with West Virginia at home."
Additions and renovations of Dowdy-Ficklen
Stadium were planned to be completed by 2010.
The Pirates will face their second set
of Mountaineers in as many weeks when they journey to West Virginia on
Sept. 12. WVU won't have quarterback Patrick White, who was outplayed by
ECU's Patrick Pinkney in
a 24-3 Pirates win in Greenville
last season. But Pinkney will, of course, be back in purple and gold
thanks to a favorable NCAA ruling on his medical hardship application.
Pinkney completed 22 of 28 passes last
season against West Virginia for 236 yards with one touchdown and no
interceptions. The best game to date in Pinkney's career came when he
threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns in
a 34-31 win over the Tar Heels
in 2007. The rematch is in Chapel Hill on Sept. 19.
Among the significant arrivals and
departures for UNC-CH is the exit of quarterback Cam Sexton, who
apparently felt abandoned by coach Butch Davis after leading wins over
Connecticut and Notre Dame last season. Sexton has headed for Catawba.
Art Kaufman has joined Davis' staff as linebackers coach. Pirate fans
should hope he has the same kind of impact for the Tar Heels that he had
at ECU as a member of John Thompson's staff.
The Pirates enter C-USA play the
following week (Sept. 26) at home against Central Florida. League play
continues the next three Saturdays at Marshall (Oct. 3), at Southern
Methodist (Oct. 10) and at home against Rice (Oct. 17).
Then the Pirates get into some ESPN
dates that may get the fan base a little disoriented. Don't plan on
attending church services the day after these games because there won't
be anyone there.
C-USA gets some weird timeslots but at
least it offers ECU some opportunities for unchallenged national
exposure. When the Pirates weren't winning, they played a lot more of
the traditional Saturday timeslots and ESPN wasn't interested in feeding
the games to homes and potential recruits across the country.
On Tuesday, Oct. 27, ECU is at Memphis.
That's followed by a Thursday night television date in Greenville with
Virginia Tech on Nov. 5. The last time the Hokies came to Greenville,
for an ESPN Thursday night game back in 2000, bad Pirate punt operations
were a crucial factor in a 45-28 ECU loss. Long snapper Ryan Luckadoo
went from anonymity to infamy.
Misfortunes in the punting game went
ECU's way as T.J. Lee returned a block for a touchdown in last year's
meeting with Virginia Tech,
a 27-22 Pirate win in Charlotte.
The Hokies recovered to win the ACC championship and will be seeking
atonement as they venture into Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
The Pirates play at Tulsa on Sunday,
Nov. 15 in a rematch of
last season's league championship.
Home games with UAB (Nov. 21) and Southern Miss (Nov. 28) complete the
The Golden Eagles are fearsome in
Greenville, where their road record is an amazing 14-2. It will be a
challenge for the Pirates to buck that trend at the end of the year.
Hopefully coach Skip Holtz won't have the degree of personnel attrition
to deal with in 2009 that the program was able to overcome in 2008.
"We've talked about trying to win
championships since we arrived in Greenville," Holtz said. "It was
something we talked about when we had won three games in two years
(2003, 2004, before Holtz arrived). A lot of people looked at us like, 'Let's win about three
or four games first.' Let's crawl before we walk."
The Pirates are running like Forrest
Gump now and the 2009 schedule offers more opportunities for progress.
The new football schedule is out! The
new football schedule is out!
It's intriguing to ponder the
possibilities that this slate presents for the Pirates. It should
certainly add some urgency to the start of spring practice on Monday.