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The Pirate Experience
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

By Kevin Monroe

Color analyst for the Pirate ISP Sports Radio
Network, Kevin Monroe was a standout
defensive back for East Carolina from 1995-99.

No easy path to

All Rights Reserved.

Ask any Pirate fan what is most bothersome about fans of other major schools in the area, and the response will be their lack of respect for East Carolina’s football program.

They respect the fact that East Carolina has a good program, just not the same quality as theirs.

That is, after all, what it means to be a Pirate. It means always being the underdog and always having partisans of other schools view you as less than their equal.

How many of you know that Texas Christian of the Mountain West Conference has had six 10-win seasons over the last decade? If you knew that bit of trivia, you are in the minority. That is the life of a non-BCS program.

Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference has been the most prominent non-BCS team in the country over the last five years, losing less than five games total over that span.

There are only two ways to earn the respect that is yearned. Either continuously schedule and beat BCS teams every year, which is extremely tough, or leave the situation you are in and gain a spot in a BCS conference.

Both of these scenarios are extremely difficult to turn into reality. In order to schedule and beat BCS programs, you have to be willing to go on the road to play them, and realize they are probably going to be bigger, stronger, and faster.

The more elite non-BCS programs like the Pirates, Boise State, Utah and Brigham Young can compete with these teams with their starters, but as you go to the bench, the bigger programs tend to have more depth.

Regarding the second option, if it were that easy, all the non-BCS schools would be doing it. For those programs that have the managed the feat, however, it has meant a world of positive difference jumping from the independent or mid-major conference ranks into a BCS conference.

Teams like Virginia Tech, South Florida, and Cincinnati have made that move and it has paid off in a big way.

The Hokies played for a national championship in 1999 just a few years after joining the Big East. South Florida has cracked the Top 10 a couple of times since joining the Big East from Conference USA.

More recently, Cincinnati just completed an undefeated regular season after moving up a few years ago from C-USA.

Its not the BCS conference itself that makes the difference. There are several programs in BCS conferences that have struggled regularly, like Mississippi State or Vanderbilt.

The difference maker is the access to BCS money — which funds scholarships and lavish facilities — and the high-profile national television exposure that enhances recruiting.

East Carolina used to play toe-to-toe with all three of those schools, but their moves into the BCS has boosted their programs to a new level.

I am sure athletics director Terry Holland has several conference move scenarios that he is working on, but the culmination of those efforts may not take place for a few years.

In the meantime, the Pirates can take advantage of the first key to respect noted above by scheduling BCS teams and beating them.

Last year, the Pirates vaulted onto the national scene with huge wins over West Virginia and Virginia Tech, but then a loss to North Carolina State derailed their momentum. Finishing the season with a heartbreaking loss in the Liberty Bowl to Kentucky, a middle of the pack SEC team, really hurt.

East Carolina hasn't beaten a BCS conference team this season, losing in three tries to West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina.

The Pirates will get another opportunity on the day after New Year's against the Arkansas Razorbacks of the SEC.

If East Carolina can find a way to win, it will be a statement game for the program.

A loss is just another reason not to give the Pirates any respect. After all, what does it mean to win nine games if you can’t beat an average SEC team? in the SEC.

E-mail Monroe

Kevin Monroe Archives

12/23/2009 05:49:04 AM


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