East Carolina Earns First National Ranking Since 2008 After 3-1 Start
Pirates Racked Up A School-Best 789 Yards Of Offense In Second-Straight Win Over Tar Heels
Head Football Coach Ruffin McNeill Discusses The Upcoming Virginia Tech Game
Senior Receiver Scores Twice And Throws For Another
Sharp Passing Effort, Rush Defense Dominates Second Scrimmage
Watch Ruffin McNeill and Cody Keith discuss the Third Annual Mack Attack Golf Tournament.
Watch an interview with Coach McNeill following ECU's fifth practice of the spring.
Watch an interview with Coach McNeill following ECU's fourth practice of the spring.
Watch interviews with Coach McNeill, Warren Harvey and Phil McNaughton following ECU's third practice of the spring.
Watch interviews with Coach McNeill, Damon Magazu and Daniel Drake following ECU's second practice of the spring.
ECU vs. Ohio (USA Today Gallery)
East Carolina vs. Louisiana - R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - AP Photos (12/22/12)
AP Photos: Football vs. UAB
AP Photos: East Carolina at North Carolina
AP Photos: East Carolina at Southern Miss
When former Pirate defensive back and assistant coach Ruffin McNeill came home five years ago, the return offered a promise of renewed Purple and Gold passion.
Not to mention, plenty of excitement with a plethora of points on offense, a resurgency on the defense side of the ball and more bowl destinations as well.
McNeill, who starred as a four-year letterman in the late 1970s, was appointed East Carolina's 20th head football coach on January 21, 2010 after completing a 10-year stay at Texas Tech.
The Lumberton native has delivered on those pledges during his initial five campaigns, which also marked his 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th overall seasons coaching at the collegiate level.
After initially rewriting the school's offensive record books in 2010 and consistently adding more entries each following season, McNeill's efforts on the recruiting trail, dedicated off-season commitment and family approach resulted in a competitive balance that allowed the Pirates to post 26 victories in a recent three-year span that included the program's second-highest single-season win total in school history in 2013.
East Carolina's first campaign in the American Athletic Conference in 2014 was memorable as McNeill's squad raced out of the gate with a 6-1 record and resided in the Associated Press Top 25 polls for six weeks after jumping back in the rankings following consecutive triumphs over Atlantic Coast Conference members Virginia Tech (28-21) and North Carolina (70-41) in late September. The Pirates used an explosive offensive unit that rated among the nation's Top 5 in passing (third), first downs (fourth) and total yards (fifth), while on defense, only 10 teams at the FBS level were better against the run than the Pirates who allowed just 111.8 yards per game.
Shane Carden and Justin Hardy, who were part of McNeill's first ECU freshman class, shattered every passing and receiving record, respectively, to help guide the Pirates to their third-straight bowl appearance (and fourth in McNeill's five years) and an 8-5 finish.
Almost as impressive as ECU's 10-3 overall mark and bowl victory in 2013 was the Pirates' first-ever same-season sweep of in-state ACC opponents UNC and NC State. McNeill's squad broke or matched 52 individual and team single-game, single-season and career standards, while both sides of the ball ranked among the Top 15 nationally in 12 statistical categories.
During his initial season in 2010, the self-described football "lifer" guided East Carolina to six wins and qualification for a bowl game, despite inheriting a program which lost 34 lettermen off the previous year's squad - the most of any FBS program in America. Capacity crowds at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were also treated to a thrilling, high-scoring and prolific spread offensive scheme which literally enjoyed a record-breaking campaign - shattering or at least matching 29 team or individual standards.
McNeill orchestrated an impressive defensive turnaround with a newly-implemented 3-4 scheme a year later as ECU allowed 102.5 fewer yards per game in 2011 to improve 64 places on the statistical rankings to finish among the top half of all FBS programs.
McNeill's 2012 edition, young by most standards with 17 juniors and nine sophomores who made starts throughout the season, posted an 8-5 record and owned a share of the C-USA East Division title by matching a program best with a 7-1 league slate.
His success and leadership abilities at ECU have enabled McNeill to be a three-time recipient of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation's Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Salute to Excellence Award for college head coaches, earning the honor in 2011, 2013 and 2014.
|Born||Oct. 9, 1958
|High School||Lumberton (N.C.) HS
|College||East Carolina, 1980 (B.A.)
Clemson, 1987 (M.A.)
children: Renata (34) and Olivia (24)
grandchildren: Isabella (2)
|Level||School (Years), Position|
|High School||Lumberton HS (1972-75)/ Defensive Back|
|College||East Carolina University (1976-80) / Defensive Back|
|1980-84||Lumberton HS, assistant coach|
|1985-86||Clemson University, graduate assistant coach|
|1987||Austin Peay University, linebackers|
|1988||North Alabama University, linebackers|
|1989-91||Appalachian State University, linebackers|
|1992||East Carolina University, defensive line|
|1993-96||Appalachian State University, defensive coordinator|
|1996||Miami Dolphins, summer intern|
|1997||UNLV, defensive coordinator|
|1998||UNLV, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator|
|1999||Fresno State University, defensive coordinator|
|2000-02||Texas Tech University, linebackers|
|2003-06||Texas Tech University, assistant head coach/special teams coordinator|
|2007||Texas Tech University, assistant head coach/interim defensive coordinator/defenisve tackles|
|2008-09||Texas Tech University, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator|
|2010-15||East Carolina University, head coach|
|HEAD COACHING RECORD
|2009||Texas Tech||1-0||0-0 (Big 12)|
|2010||East Carolina||6-7||5-3 (C-USA)|
|2011||East Carolina||5-7||4-4 (C-USA)|
|2012||East Carolina||8-5||7-1 (C-USA)|
|2013||East Carolina||10-3||6-2 (C-USA)|
|2014||East Carolina||8-5||5-3 (AAC)|
Before returning to his alma mater, McNeill concluded the 2009 season as the Red Raiders' interim head coach by rallying No. 21 Texas Tech to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 after the dismissal of Mike Leach.
The 2009 campaign was his 10th season as a member of Leach's staff and second full year as the defensive coordinator. He served the final nine games of 2007 in that role on an interim basis, before taking over officially in 2008. McNeill, who also coached the linebackers, was regarded as one of the most versatile coaches on the staff and also one of the most beloved by the Red Raider football team.
McNeill began his coaching career as a defensive coach at Lumberton (N.C.) High School from 1980-84, before taking his first collegiate position as a graduate assistant coaching linebackers at Clemson during the 1985-86 seasons. The Tigers won the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1986 and advanced to the Gator Bowl, a year after appearing in the Independence Bowl.
Following one-year stints at Austin Peay State and North Alabama as linebackers coach, McNeill spent three seasons on the mountain at Appalachian State, where the team won the Southern Conference title in 1991. In his first tour of duty at ASU, the school appeared in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs each season.
He returned to the Boone, N.C., program after a year as defensive line coach at East Carolina, in 1992. As defensive coordinator at Appalachian State from 1993-96, the team won the 1995 Southern Conference title and competed in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs at the conclusion of the 1994 and 1995 regular seasons.
McNeill tapped the professional ranks for experience, working as a summer intern with the Miami Dolphins in 1996. From there he went to UNLV in 1997 and 1998 as defensive coordinator both seasons and assistant head coach in 1998.
A four-year letterwinner at ECU from 1976-80 under the legendary Pat Dye, McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and was the team captain for two seasons. He helped lead the Pirates to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in 1978 - the school's first in what is recognized as the modern era.
He graduated from East Carolina in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in education and later earned a master's degree in secondary counseling from Clemson in 1987.
McNeill, 56, and his wife, Erlene, have two daughters and a granddaughter. Renata McNeill Petrekin (34) and son-in-law Lincoln Petrekin reside in Coral Gables, Fla., with their daughter Isabella (2), while Olivia McNeill (24) is a teacher at West Forsyth High School who currently lives in Winston-Salem, N.C.