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ECU News, Notes and Commentary

The Bradsher Beat
Friday, June 24, 2005

By Bethany Bradsher

ECU spices up non-conference schedules

Navy, WVU, 4 ACC teams will show up on future Pirate football slates

CHART: View an organized chart of the Pirates' football schedules over the next 8 years...

East Carolina AD Terry Holland (left) was joined by Greenville mayor Don Parrot (right) at Thursday's media briefing in the Murphy Center in which Holland announced significant upgrades in the Pirates' future out-of-conference football schedules.

(Photos: Sara Whitford,


Click the 'Play' control on the mini-player below to listen to Terry Holland's Thursday press conference in its entirety, including remarks by Greenville mayor Don Parrot.


Terry Holland speaks with's Bethany Bradsher about ECU's scheduling strategy. Click the 'Play' control on the mini-player below to listen:


Time was, a college football team’s natural geographic rivalries were established within its conference.

But modern athletic conferences are assembled from a patchwork of states, so today’s athletic directors have to take a different approach.

That’s one of the challenges East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland had before him when he set out to schedule the Pirates’ non-conference opponents for the next eight seasons.

The result, which Holland announced in a press conference Thursday, is a slate from 2006-2013 that includes an annual game against Virginia Tech, four contests against North Carolina and West Virginia, three against North Carolina State, two against Virginia and a first-time series with Navy.

The ultra-challenging line-up gives the Pirates two things: formidable competition against which to measure themselves and the continuation of regional rivalries.

“We realize that it is a challenge,” Holland said. “But we think that Pirates respond to a challenge. We’re talking about eight possible bowl teams on our schedule every year. We’re excited about it, we’re anxious about it, but that’s what athletics is all about.

“The opportunity is there for us to provide a formidable challenge for our team every single year.”

ECU plays eight Conference USA games a year, and the balance of the schedule over the next eight seasons left 32 opening dates. Of those non-conference contests, Holland has already scheduled 25. Nearly half of those match-ups will take place in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, because Holland did not negotiate with schools who wouldn’t agree to a home-away series.

“We’re just not going to do that,” Holland said of the potential opponents who wanted to schedule ECU for “guarantee” games that will give a large pay-out to a school that will come for an away game only. “We had some offers from some big-name schools. They would call and say, ‘Hey, we’ll give you $750,000 to come to our place and play, and I’d say, ‘Hey, we’ll give you a million and a half to come to Greenville to play. Now if they had accepted I don’t know what I would have done. But I felt like I had to call their bluff, at least.”

Only one game on the schedule, a 2007 contest against Virginia Tech at the Carolina Panthers' Bank of America Stadium, will be played on a neutral site. That arrangement was part of the eight-year deal with the Hokies, in part because of the exposure it gives both schools in the Charlotte region.

“Let’s face it, Charlotte is an important media market for everybody,” Holland said. “There were a lot of good reasons to play in Charlotte. But it was part of the deal with Virginia Tech. Eight straight years is kind of unusual with any opponent, particularly with one that has played for the national championship in recent years.”

If anything, the Pirates’ 3-20 record over the past two seasons made it easier to assemble the long-range plan, Holland said, because opposing athletic directors don’t see ECU as a significant threat at this point.

“If we were 20-3 we might not have the same opportunities,” he said. “So we’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot and we’ll figure it out as we go along.”

Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, who came to ECU from the University of Minnesota, said that he expects the Pirate players to rise to the level of non-conference competition that, in addition to the ACC teams, includes West Virginia and Navy.

“A competitive player will work hard and when he goes out there on that grass, he’ll play up to the level that we need to be competitive and hopefully win those games.”

Greenville Mayor Don Parrott, who spoke briefly at the press conference, said that the projected schedule will be a boon to the area because of the fans from both teams that will come spend money in Pitt County when rivals like the Tar Heels and the Cavaliers come to play.

“It’s exciting because of the economics that it’s going to bring to our community,” Parrott said.

Head coach Skip Holtz, who was out of town for Thursday’s announcement but answered the media’s question by teleconference, said that the eight-year schedule was a reflection of Holland’s ambitious goal for the program and a reason for considerable optimism.

“I have total confidence in Terry Holland and the visions and goals he has for this program,” Holtz said. “I am extremely excited about the opportunity to play at that level. There’s going to be some growing pains as we go into this, but it’s a challenge for this program that I’m ready to accept.”

The bottom line, Holland said, is that setting lofty goals for the next eight years will move ECU closer to the goal that is shared by everyone in the Pirate Nation — a future bid in a BCS bowl.

“We’re going to play some BCS-caliber teams so we can measure every year how close we are or how far away we are,” he said. “We’d like to see that gap closing every year if we are as far away as some people probably think we are.”

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02/23/2007 01:11:26 AM

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