A Message From Terry Holland
Sept. 7, 2008
To the Pirate Nation:
East Carolina University's fans in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium have been a tremendously important part of the game plan that has allowed the East Carolina coaches and players to achieve national distinction for our university. The Pirate Nation was at its best last night as a team of determined Pirates battled the Number Eight West Virginia University Mountaineers on the field.
The performance on the field and in the stands was truly outstanding and captured the attention of the nation. However, what happened after the game ended ruined a perfect day for many who witnessed several isolated instances of those in charge of security over-reacting when fans stormed the field.
Regardless of the findings of the investigation into these incidents, the resulting "black eye" is certainly a step backward for all good Pirates who have worked so hard to provide the very best game atmosphere and sportsmanship found anywhere in intercollegiate athletics.
As the press release below indicates, a thorough investigation has been initiated and will address all reported incidents to determine the proper resolution of those situations and to prevent future similar occurrences.
While "storming the field" looks like a lot of fun on television, I can tell you from first hand experience that there are too many incidents that result in sometimes serious injury for anyone (particularly if you have a relative in the crowd) to believe that storming the field is "just good fun" for college students. Such actions jeopardize the safety of many people, including our own coaches and players.
That is why the ECU players and coaches have made it a tradition to "go to the fans" and give every fan in the stadium the recognition and respect the team feels for those who have cheered them on to victory.
Although I was unaware of the ugly incidents that were occurring, I was very disappointed for our team when they were unable to sing the fight song with the band and recognize the tremendous support from over 43,000 loyal Pirates who deserved to be recognized more than those few who ran onto the field for their own reasons.
It is my hope that our fans will respect the traditions that have been established and stay with the game plan that has taken us so far. After last season's game-ending field goal that won the UNC game, every fan stayed in the stands and waited for the two teams to exchange good wishes. Then all Pirates celebrated the great victory with all our team members in a safe and sporting environment that clearly defines the bond that has formed between this team and the Pirate Nation.
We have come too far to allow anything to stand in the way of great teamwork that has been the core of our success. ECU Athletics can not succeed at the highest level unless we are all committed to doing our very best to stay on the same page.
The cooperation we have received from the Pirate Nation has enabled us to get this far but the next steps will require even greater discipline and dedication.
East Carolina University officials are investigating complaints of unnecessary force exercised by law enforcement officers as thousands of people stormed the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Saturday to celebrate the Pirates' win over West Virginia University.
ECU Police Chief Scott Shelton said university officers are interviewing witnesses and analyzing photos and videotapes. The complaints are varied and include assertions that officers punched a fan and threw another to the ground. Shelton said, "Preliminary investigation indicates excessive force was used in an incident of most concern by complainants."
ECU police are assisted at home football games by officers from a number of jurisdictions, including the City of Greenville, Pitt County Sheriff's Department, the City of Kinston, and Lenoir County. Shelton said he will meet Monday with Greenville Police Chief Bill Anderson to seek his assistance in the investigation.
Shelton said that at a briefing before the game, all officers were told that if ECU won the game and fans attempted to come onto the field, officers should try to deter them by making themselves visible. But if that failed, he said, officers were instructed to step back and focus on making sure that those on the field stayed safe.
"Obviously, the safety of the students, fans and athletes at the game is our first concern," Shelton said. "It is simply unacceptable that anyone at a game is the victim of excessive force."
Shelton said he hopes to have at least a preliminary report on the complaints within a day or two.