Insights and Observations
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
By Henry Hinton
Winning not the only
priority in Birmingham
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and tape from Skip Holtz' press
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The ultimate opportunity.
that East Carolina will play in the inaugural
Papa Johns.com Bowl on December 23
in Birmingham is the best case scenario for the Pirate program.
For the third time in
recent years, East Carolina will help launch a new bowl game. The game,
which will be played in historic Legion Field, will feature the Pirates and
a Big East team. That alone makes this the best choice for the postseason
Word filtered around the
program on Tuesday that South Florida will most likely be the opponent, but
that remains to be seen. As late as Tuesday, night there was jockeying for
position among Big East teams with regard to which team will play in the
various bowls provided by agreements with that conference and other
If the opponent is South
Florida, it would appear that ECU has an opportunity to send a message to
the very league that overlooked it in the latest round of Big East
expansion. The Bulls program was chosen over East Carolina’s to join
Louisville and Cincinnati in an exodus from Conference USA.
The irony has not been
lost on Athletics Director Terry Holland and Coach Skip Holtz.
“We’re excited about the
opportunity to play in Birmingham,” said Holland on Tuesday. “We welcome the
chance to measure our program against teams like those in the Big East.”
Holland and others at ECU
have to be looking at this game as a chance to show the decision-makers in
the Big East that the Pirate program can, indeed, measure on the field and
in the stands.
That is why the
department has launched an all-out effort to make sure the initial ECU
allotment of 13,000 tickets from the bowl game are totally sold. Expect to
hear more about that in the coming days.
Coming off the win over
N.C. State and a regular season 7-5 record, Holtz has his team poised to
believe they can beat anyone. Beating a Big East team on national television
could do wonders for his program.
“We have great respect
for the Big East and to have the opportunity to play another game against a
BCS Conference is what we want to do,” said Holtz. “Coach Holland has made
it loud and clear with the schedule, that playing BCS bowls is where we want
to be and what we are striving for.”
South Florida is coming
off perhaps the biggest win in its program’s history, a 24-19 victory last
Saturday at West Virginia. Whether it’s the Bulls, Cincinnati or Pittsburgh,
Holtz is looking forward to the chance to show that his team can compete
with BCS conference schools.
“I know that the opponent
is going to be worthy and there are some good teams in the conference and it
will be a challenge," said Holtz. “I also think that it will grab some of
these players' attention. It is huge from a program standpoint. It shows the
growth in this program and how far we have come in two years. We are
definitely not where we want to be, but we are moving in the right
"This is a very positive
reward for a team that has worked extremely hard."
Of course the plan could
backfire if Pirate fans do not buy the tickets and show up in force in
Birmingham on December 23. This is the call to action Holland has been
hoping for. It is an opportunity to prove that the Pirates belong in a BCS
conference and have the backing to prove it.
Holland and Holtz are
hoping Pirate fans will open the door.
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This page updated
04/21/08 07:08 PM.