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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, August 17, 2011

By Bethany Bradsher

Pirates' chief salesman makes ultimate pitch

Terry Holland
(ECU SID image)


Pirates' chief salesman makes ultimate pitch
Competition intensifies at first scrimmage
Pirates face uncertain future
Furr sets sail from Chapel Hill to Greenville
Ruff & Co. strike a chord with prep, juco coaches
Defensive optimism makes a comeback
Connors passes the baton
ECU Media Day Gallery
Audio: Ruffin McNeill Media Day Presser

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

I have a 6-year-old who gets seriously injured approximately every seven minutes. He screams and cries because he bumped his knee/toe or scratched his elbow/ear while he was running around/wrestling with his big brother.  Each time, I, as the dutiful mother, calmly tell him that I’m sorry his world is ending. Then I send him back to play.

When it comes to my little boy, I have compassion fatigue, because these grave injuries occur so often and almost never yield so much as a bruise. With that in mind, I have to confess that as conference realignment talk has come screaming into the college sports landscape this week, I have been tempted to react in much the same way.

Isn’t there always some prospect of East Carolina getting a chance to breathe the rarified air of the BCS? Aren’t the puzzle pieces always on the verge of being rearranged to give the Pirates a more prominent place to compete? Yet time and again, either nothing happens or ECU is overlooked. It’s enough to give fans a chronic case of realignment fatigue.

But, dare I speak it? This trip through the wilderness of major conference identity crises could be different. And if any development confirmed my hunch that the Pirates’ door out of Conference USA could be cracking open, it was Director of Athletics Terry Holland’s bold marketing salvo that was unveiled Tuesday afternoon.

It’s called “Undaunted,” and it is a slick website dedicated to promoting East Carolina athletics and the university at large. It opens with a video narrated by Holland, and tabs are dedicated to topics like, “Our TV Audience” and “Our Fan Support.” The underlying purpose of the site is clear — to champion ECU’s cause to anyone in a position to include the Pirates in major realignment conversations. To that end, Holland wrote an open letter on encouraging the Pirate Nation to circulate “Undaunted” as far and wide as they can.

We are asking each of you to help send a consistent message that East Carolina University is a growing and powerful force for positive change, not just in eastern North Carolina, but across North Carolina and throughout the mid-Atlantic region,” Holland’s letter read. “The highly-populated area between Washington DC and Atlanta is fertile ground for college athletics because of minimal professional competition (one team each - NFL, NBA and NHL).”

Just hours after the website went live, ardent Pirates who frequent message boards had linked to the website on Twitter and Facebook and sent links to anyone they could think of who writes, blogs or talks about sports.  That type of response was, no doubt, Holland’s intention in giving fans a peek of the website, because the most passionate supporters of the “Undaunted” idea will be the ones who spread it the furthest.

As Texas A&M trustees and Texas legislators weigh in on the Aggies’ projected move from the Big 12 to the SEC, the Pirate faithful finally have a chance to do more than just wait for the dominoes to start toppling. They might not have the ear of any major conference officials, but at least they can sit at their keyboard and do what they can to put a compelling argument before as many people as possible in hopes that it will reach and sway the decision makers. Even before the site was launched, a Wall Street Journal blogger mentioned ECU as a possible future SEC member, and Pirates hope that such mentions multiply in the days ahead.

Pirate fans have seen Holland’s firm leadership time and again in his seven years at the ECU helm, but on Tuesday the nation got a glimpse. As he speaks of ECU’s game-day atmosphere (“You have to experience it to understand it”) and the Pirate’s burgeoning television market, visitors to “Undaunted” are convinced that this giant of college athletics believes in East Carolina and its place in the future.

Sure, this fall could be another false alarm, another instance of the college realignment boys crying wolf and igniting hysteria in fan bases across the nation. But Terry Holland and other top Pirate brass are doing their utmost to ensure that this wave of conference conversation helps elevate ECU’s profile anywhere college athletics are played.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

08/17/2011 03:26 AM

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