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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports

From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
By Brian Bailey

Epic triumph gets big brush off

Not a monumental moment?

While the Pirates were stranded in Columbia following their 1999 win at South Carolina, they viewed scenes like this on TV — a family in Pactolus, just north of Greenville, approaching its home by boat in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. Somehow, someway, ECU still mustered enough determination to upend a Top 10 Miami team at N.C. State's Carter-Finley Stadium before an awed national television audience and a grateful and proud region. But that effort wasn't enough in Conference USA's eyes to warrant inclusion in its recent list of Top Ten Moments in C-USA History.

(Archive Photo by Dave Gatley, FEMA)


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Where’s the love for ECU?

Conference USA is in the process of voting on the top moment in the history of the league.

Since it was formed in 1995, the conference has enjoyed some outstanding successes, but the top ten nominees don’t include East Carolina at all.

If I’m not mistaken, the Pirates have had several moments worthy of discussion since joining the conference. There have been a couple of great baseball seasons, but one September night in Raleigh comes to mind as one of the greatest moments ever for the league.

It became known as the “Hurricane Game” as the Pirates rallied from 20 points down in the second half to beat 9th ranked Miami 27-23.

The nationally-televised game, played on Sept. 25, 1999, was moved from Greenville to Raleigh's Carter-Finley Stadium because of the flooding in Eastern North Carolina.

This was a team that gave the entire eastern part of our state hope, when there was little else to look forward to. The numbers from the devastation were unbelievable. There were forty-eight confirmed deaths. At one point there were 50,000 people in temporary shelters. More then 3,500 homes were destroyed or suffered major damage.

We didn’t have a sportscast the entire week. The only thing that I reported on during that time was the news that the game would be played, and that it was moving to Raleigh. I spent my week at Sam’s Club, broadcasting live while gathering donations for the needy.

The Pirates, after defeating South Carolina on the road the previous Saturday, didn’t even come home the week before the game — because they couldn't. They eventually moved from their Columbia, SC, hotel to Raleigh.

Some of the players lost everything in the flooding. Still, the Pirates went out and beat the 9th ranked team in the nation.

C-USA lists Louisville’s win over 4th ranked Florida State in 2002 as a nominee. Sure, the ‘Noles had a higher ranking, but was this win bigger then the “Hurricane Game.” I think not!

Granted, some of the top ten nominations certainly deserve to be there. I don’t even want to take away anything from some of the questionable nominations, like Louisville making the Sweet 16 in volleyball, or UAB making the Sweet 16 in women’s basketball.

Who was in a position to lobby on behalf of East Carolina? Did the fact that ECU is undergoing a transition in the Sports Information Office and is still without a permanent athletic director contribute to the oversight?

Heck, most of the teams cited on the list are leaving anyway! And you leave out a member which is staying put?

The “Hurricane Game” was a defining, shining moment for all of us in Eastern North Carolina — even for many fans whose normal loyalties lie with other area teams — and should rank as one of the all-time greatest moments in C-USA history.

We should all demand a write-in vote!

Positive news on preseason front

James Pinkney seems like he’s ready to go. Pinkney completed 18 of 22 passes for 206 yards and a couple of touchdowns as East Carolina wrapped up its trio of scrimmages at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

“Overall, I felt like it was a very good day,” said Pirate coach John Thompson. “We got out of camp without any major injuries and now we’re going to turn our attention toward West Virginia.”

Thompson liked the tempo of the intra-squad skirmish and noted any negatives were offset by positives.

“The scrimmage was a faster paced practice than we’ve had," he said. "It was crisp. We did have some turnovers, but we created some turnovers. We gave up some big plays, but we made some big plays.”

The biggest of those plays was a 46-yard bomb from Pinkney to former running back Robert Tillman. Tillman was recently moved to receiver and that move paid dividends in the scrimmage.

East Carolina was very good on offense around the goal line. The Pirates converted four of their opportunities in that part of the scrimmage, picking up three-yard runs by Marvin Townes and Chris Johnson while getting a pair of three-yard TD receptions from Johnson and Kort Shankweiler.

“We’ve got some work to do on our goal line defense,” said Thompson. “Scrimmages are tough though. I don’t know if we’re just really bad on defense or really good on offense.”

ECU will now close practices to the public to get ready for the September 4th opener at West Virginia.

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02/23/2007 01:29:37 AM

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