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View from the 'ville
Thursday, September 10, 2009

By Al Myatt

App State series now has a future

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Until East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland sought to move a home game with N.C. State from the 2009 season to 2010, the Pirates' football series with Appalachian State was like lore about Blackbeard's treasure — a matter entrusted to historians.

Holland pursued the schedule adjustment so that expansion of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium could be completed before the Wofpack played again in Greenville.

ECU and the Mountaineers were old rivals with the emphasis being on old. They had met 29 times down through the ages, dating back to 1932, but the series had been dormant since ECU's 38-21 win in Boone back in 1979.

None of the current players were alive when the former Southern Conference rivals last matched up. ECU coach Skip Holtz was a freshman at Fayetteville (AR) High. There was no such thing as the Internet you're reading now.

ASU-ECU was a series with a past until Holland gave it a present last year by adding App State to the 2009 schedule with a one-game contract. That took the Wolfpack off the docket for 2009 and moved NCSU's next game in Greenville to 2010.

After Saturday's 29-24 Pirates win in Greenville before 43,279 fans, it now appears that ASU-ECU might have a future.

"It turned out to be a great, great game, a great day for football," said Holland, who was on the verge of his first trip to the Final Four in 1980 as basketball coach at Virginia the last time ECU played Appalachian. "I actually think the way it turned out is probably the best thing that could have happened to our particular team at this particular circumstance."

The Pirates were up 24-0 in the second quarter but ASU reserve quarterback Travaris Cadet led a comeback that kept the capacity crowd on the edge of their seats until the last seconds.

"You don't like to blow a lead like that but Appalachian State never gave up," Holland said. "They came back at us and that's what great rivalries are all about."

Holland likened the manner in which the game unfolded to last year's Alabama-Georgia game in which the then-No. 8 Crimson Tide managed a 41-30 win in Athens after jumping out to a big lead over the then-No. 3 Bulldogs.

"Alabama was winning 31-0 at the half, and they're lucky to hang on and win, so that's just part of (a great rivalry)," Holland said. "We hope the rivalry (with ASU) will continue."

More games for the Pirates with the Southern Conference juggernaut at the other end of the state probably won't happen right away.

"There's nothing for the next couple of years because we're full and I think they are as well in terms of the games they can play against teams from our (football bowl) division," Holland said. "We'll keep looking at it though. It's a series that I would like to see continue and I know that most of our fans would like to see."

Holland wasn't absolutely certain about the financial guarantee due ASU following Saturday's game but said he thought it was $300,000. The Pirates obviously can generate more revenue from gate receipts because pending expansion will make the stadium in Greenville more than twice the size of recently-renovated Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, which seats 21,650.

Holland didn't sound as enthusiastic about scheduling games in Boone as he was in terms of just continuing the series.

"All of those things would have to work themselves out in the future," he said. "We would prefer to play them in Charlotte if we went anywhere other than here."

Playing the Pirates wasn't exactly a new experience for Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, who is in his 21st season as head coach of the Mountaineers. Moore was head coach at North Texas in 1979 when the Pirates defeated the Mean Green 49-16 in Greenville. That was Nov. 17, 1979, two weeks after ECU and ASU last tangled in Boone.

Moore's second loss to ECU on Saturday didn't leave him looking for scheduling alternatives although Appalachian is scheduled to play at Florida next season and at Virginia Tech in 2011.

The Mountaineers don't mind hitting the road to take on some of the most established programs in college football. They stunned Michigan 34-32 before 109,000 in Ann Arbor in 2007 and absorbed a 41-13 loss to open the 2008 season at LSU.

"It's a natural," Moore said of games with the Pirates. "We haven't played since I've been here so this is the first time in 21 years. It was a long time even before that. But it's a natural rivalry. They both played in the Southern Conference against each other.

"There are so many fans that go back to that era. They always wanted us to continue to play but for one reason or another, the administration at both schools never worked hard at making it happen. Now that Terry and Charlie (Cobb, ASU AD) have done that, it appears to me that it could be a great series.

"They've even talked about playing it in Charlotte. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I would hope that it would get to the point that we could play at least one of the games in Boone. It can be a great series. It can't do anything but get better, I think."

Holtz was favorable in his comments about playing Appalachian State before his focus shifted to getting ready to face another set of Mountaineers this week at West Virginia.

Showcase games which capture the emotion of the fan bases tend to enhance recruiting and when they have the potential to produce program-sustaining revenue, they become all the more enticing to those who do the scheduling.

More from Moore

The Appalachian State coach was asked to compare Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to venues at Michigan and LSU where his program has opened its last two seasons.

"That's not really a fair question," Moore said. "Michigan has got 109,000 seats and LSU has got 90 (thousand). It's a really good atmosphere here. We have a good atmosphere at our place. You'd be shocked if you came to our place to play.

"It's a great atmosphere here (in Greenville). There's no question about that. You've got great fan support and great student support. When you start comparing it to LSU and Michigan, that's another thing.

"There's not anything wrong with that. There's a niche for us. There's a niche for East Carolina, just like there's a niche for the LSU's and Ohio States and Michigans. We're talking about apples and oranges a little bit."

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

09/10/2009 02:12 AM


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