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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, April 18, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

Burning question: What's in a name?

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

East Carolina has played host to legendary aviators (Amelia Earhart in 1936), first ladies (Eleanor Roosevelt in 1941) and presidents (John F. Kennedy in 1960 and George W. Bush in 2001).

On Thursday, the white-hot eye of the political spotlight again flashed briefly over Greenville when Barack Obama made a speech at Minges Coliseum.

So we know that famous people in the spheres of politics and science venture to East Carolina occasionally. But who are the best-known athletes ever to grace this university with their presence?

I am not a resident historian of all things Pirate, but Iíve found a handful of past visitors who have distinguished themselves in their sport, either during the time they dropped in on ECU or afterwards.

A sampling:

  • Four visits from the Miami Hurricanes in six years in the Ď80s brought several football players to town who would later make major waves in the NFL. Michael Irvin and Vinny Testaverde both played at ECU in 1985, followed by Steve Walsh in 1987 and 1988.

  • Florida State football has only been to town once, for a 44-3 drubbing of the Pirates that might have been aided by an upstart cornerback named Deion Sanders. Sanders went on to become a consensus All-America cornerback that year and the next.

  • In 2000, one of the most damaging fall-from-fame stories in recent years made a stop in Greenville when Michael Vick and his Virginia Tech teammates came for a game against ECU. The Hokies prevailed that day, 45-28.

  • In basketball, some of the most memorable players to come through the arena came in the Bill Herrion era. The 2002-í03 season was notable for the coaches who came and roamed the Williams Arena sideline: Bob Huggins for Cincinnati and Rick Pitino for Louisville.

  • I saw Bobby Bowden here in 2003 to give a speech for an FCA event. Michael Jordan never made it closer than his community golf tournament.

Rumors about the likes of Danny Ford and Matt Doherty dropping in to interview for coaching vacancies are unfounded.

So I need your help, gentle Bonesville reader. Who is the best visiting athlete you have ever seen play at East Carolina? Or, which players seemed to blend in when they competed against the Pirates and later set their sports ablaze? Which coaches seemed to elevate the level of competition with their very presence in the venue?

The rules of this exercise: Iím looking for notables who did not wear an ECU jersey. Iím certainly a David Garrard fan and I know that Blue Edwards drew crowds in his day, but current and former Pirates get to dominate this space every other week. So weíre branching out.

Send me some of the history-making ECU visitors and your opinions about which were the greatest, and Iíll publish some of your observations in an upcoming column. Use the e-mail link below my column, and help educate this poor Texas transplant who hasnít had time to make it past the shallow end of the Pirate Nation pool.

If I get a thorough response, I might even rank them: Top 50 Athletes to Visit the ECU Campus. It all depends on you.

Send an e-mail message to Bethany Bradsher.

Dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville archives.

04/19/2008 12:40:38 AM

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