ECU Pirates :: Athletics News
A Message To The Pirate Nation

ECU Athletics Director Terry Holland
ECU Athletics Director Terry Holland

Oct. 15, 2009

Certainly every Pirate has to be feeling somewhat the same as you do today. Our expectations have been raised to an extremely high level by three-straight winning seasons, three-straight bowl games and a 24-16 record over those three years. The margin for success and failure is very thin in today's games as the winning margins in six of those 24 wins were the result of important plays in the last two minutes of regulation and another four wins were in overtime. That means that over 40% of our win total could have gone either way in the last two minutes of the game.

To help put Saturday's loss behind us and get back to reality, let's put consistency into an ECU perspective - since the Pirates left the Southern Conference to compete at the Division I-A level after the 1976 season, ECU has never recorded four consecutive winning seasons. Should any of us be considering giving up on a team that has a chance to accomplish milestones that have never been reached in our Division I-A history - four consecutive winning seasons, four consecutive bowl games, back-to-back conference championships?

Four consecutive winning seasons is rarer than you would think as evidenced by the fact that our two sister FBS state institutions have together recorded only one winning season during the previous three years. College football is a cruel and unforgiving devotion for participants and fans, since as soon as we start to feel good about where we are, the carpet is invariably ripped from underneath our feet. If we want to reach our long-term goals, we all have to discipline ourselves so that failures strengthen our resolve to provide unified support rather than dividing us.

Virginia Tech has established the premier program in our region, but even the Hokies have their ups and downs. In the 2007 season, Virginia Tech and LSU met in an early season "showdown" game between two of the best programs in college football in recent years. I doubt a single Hokie fan understood how LSU could destroy them by a 48-7 score. They could accept a loss to a good team ... but total devastation against Bud Foster's defense that might not give up 48 points in a season was a different story!

However, six games later I watched in amazement as 60,000+ Hokie fans stood in a driving rainstorm for a Thursday night game with Boston College. The Hokies rewarded their fans' loyalty by dominating the game statistically from start to finish ... well almost to the finish. Tech led 10-0 with just over four minutes remaining but then, Matt Ryan engineered a miracle finish that left the Hokie Nation stunned over losing a game that was literally locked up. Virginia Tech went on to avenge the loss by beating BC in the ACC Championship game.

But think what could have been ... LSU, with losses to Kentucky and Arkansas, won the BCS Championship by defeating Ohio State. It is very reasonable to believe that a hot, one-loss Virginia Tech team would have replaced LSU in the BCS Championship Game. The point is that even the best-coached and tradition-rich teams can look sloppy at times while enduring devastating losses that take away great opportunities. That is part of the deal football fans have made with the devil when we became fans of one particular team. Those hard-to-take losses can be 48-7 blow-outs and/or sure wins that slipped away in the last minutes of the game.

One fundamental rule holds true in athletics under all circumstances - TOGETHER WE STAND AND DIVIDED WE FALL!

The East Carolina fan base creates the positive game day atmosphere in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that is the most important single resource of ECU Athletics. We depend on the Pirate Nation to make up most of the $20 million-plus financial gap between ECU Athletics' annual budget and the budgets of our greatest rivals.

If we wish to "boo" or otherwise give up on our team, the damage will be irreparable because we will be giving away the one thing that our competitors envy most and that does not cost one cent but is so precious that money cannot buy it.

Our university's only possible path to success rests on the shoulders of the Pirate Nation to support ECU through thick and thin, just as it has since the days of Leo Jenkins. The single and most important lesson that we all learn from involvement in athletics is best expressed by the Man of La Mancha ..."What matter wounds? For each time a man falls, he shall rise again ... and woe to the wicked."

There is some sentiment expressed among members of the Pirate Nation that somehow the athletic department promoted this team to be something that it is not. To my knowledge, there was no promotion of this team that was different from previous years. Pirate "beat writers" and others who have covered us for many years told me back in July that they observed unrealistic expectations on the part of the Pirate Nation and wanted to know if there was anything athletics could do to promote more realistic expectations.

My statement at that time was that we did not get to our current position by "poor mouthing" our team and our players. ECU Athletics will begin every season shooting for the stars and ... if we happen to hit the moon ... at least we will not have to wonder what might have happened if we had dreamed of bigger and better things for the Purple and Gold.