GREENVILLE, N.C. - Beginning in 2006, East Carolina University will initiate an unprecedented eight-year, 25-game non-conference football scheduling agreement with a number of Bowl Championship Series' opponents according to an announcement from athletics director Terry Holland Thursday.
Coupled with the Pirates' Conference USA membership, which will generate eight contests per year, the bowl-caliber non-conference commitments will also enable ECU to near completion of its scheduling efforts until 2013 after the NCAA officially introduces a 12-game regular season next fall. Of East Carolina's 32 non-conference openings over the next eight years, Thursday's announcement identifies 25.
"Our goal was to renew ties with our regional rivals, be in a position to annually compete against bowl opponents during the regular season and to complement eight competitive Conference USA games each year," Holland said. "When you consider six potential home games, including those against bowl-caliber opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East Conference, Conference USA and the independent ranks, the economic impact for eastern North Carolina and Greenville is tremendous."
An eight-game series with Virginia Tech headlines the historic agreement as the Pirates and Hokies will renew a regional rivalry which peaked with seven meetings during a nine-year span from 1990 to 1998. The two programs, which have met 12 overall times dating back to 1956, will face off each season beginning in 2006 with four contests taking place in Blacksburg, three in Greenville and one at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (2007).
In addition to Virginia Tech, the Pirates will also square off against ACC members North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia in future years while continuing its long relationship with Big East Conference affiliate West Virginia and kicking off a new series against consecutive bowl participant Navy.
East Carolina has agreed to four meetings each against North Carolina (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011), West Virginia (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) and Navy (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012), three vs. N.C. State (2007, 2010, 2013) and two against Virginia (2006, 2008).
"It certainly presents our program with an incredible opportunity and a great challenge," said first-year head coach Skip Holtz, who accepted the top football position at ECU last Dec. 3. "It has been my opinion that the only way to reach a championship level is to play a championship or bowl-level schedule. Between our divisional play in Conference USA and games against six programs rich in tradition and stature, we certainly have our work cut out for us."
Nearly half of ECU's future 25-game non-conference schedule will take place at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, beginning with visits by Virginia and West Virginia in 2006. The Mountaineers will also return to Greenville two years later in 2008. The Tar Heels (2007, 2011) and Midshipmen (2010, 2012) will face the Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen twice while the Wolfpack will play at East Carolina in 2010, marking only their second-ever visit to Greenville and first since 1999.
Holland's announcement closely coincides with another historic event for East Carolina's athletic program, one which played a significant role in the development of the Pirates' future football schedules. On July 1, Conference USA will officially kick off its realignment phase which welcomes new members Marshall, Rice, SMU, UTEP, Tulsa and UCF into the 10-year-old league.
A divisional format will be utilized for football with Marshall, Memphis, Southern Miss, UAB and UCF joining East Carolina in the East Division. In addition to its five-game East Division schedule, the Pirates will also play three pre-selected West Division programs each year. In 2005, ECU has been assigned to conduct contests against Rice, at SMU and at Tulsa before playing the same opponents but reversing locations a year later. Other West Division members Houston, Tulane and UTEP will be rotated in on East Carolina's schedule in future years.
With ECU's landmark scheduling agreements in place, Holland encourages fans and supporters to take proactive approach to future ticketing issues. As purchase demands for home and road games increase, season ticket holders and Pirate Club members might be in a position of exclusivity with a guaranteed seat.
"We would encourage all Pirates to ensure your place for the future, now," Holland said. "Another attractive quality of our future schedules is that it involves programs who enjoy great support, both at home and on the road."
Season tickets for the 2005 season are currently on sale at the ECU Ticket Office or by calling (800) DIAL-ECU or visiting www.ECUPirates.com
NON-CONFERENCE OPPONENT CAPSULES
Navy: First meeting ... ECU has only played one of the military academies (lead series with Army 8-0) in its history to date ... The Midshipmen have enjoyed a tremendous resurgence under coach Paul Johnson, who has led Navy to back-to-back bowl games (lost to Texas Tech in the 2004 EV1.net Houston Bowl, defeated New Mexico in the 2004 Emerald Bowl) ... Posted a 10-2 record in '04 after an 8-5 mark in 2003 ... Triple-option spread attack topped the nation in rushing in 2003 (323.2 ypg) and stood third in 2004 (289.5 ypg).
North Carolina: North Carolina leads the series 8-1-1 ... First meeting was in 1972, which also served as the first of nine consecutive games played in Chapel Hill ... Only matchup in Greenville occurred Oct. 11, 2003 (UNC 28-17) in front of a crowd of 44,040 ... The Pirates' lone win came Oct. 25, 1975 (38-17) ... Rebounded from a 2-10 campaign in 2003 with a 6-6 mark in 2004, earning an invitation to the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte.
North Carolina State: N.C. State leads East Carolina 14-9 all-time in a series which dates back to 1970 ... Although the Pirates trail in the series record against the Wolfpack, ECU has had the upper hand lately - winning four of the last six meetings since 1987 (and six of the last 10 since '83) ... The Wolfpack won last year's contest 52-14 Nov. 27 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte ... East Carolina set an all-time single-game attendance record during NCSU's only visit to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,092 on Nov. 20, 1999/ECU 23, N.C. State 6) ... Have made four bowl appearances since 2000 ... Posted an 8-5 record in 2003 and defeated Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl before falling to 5-6 in 2004.
Virginia: The two teams have only met once in history ... East Carolina, under the direction of Pat Dye, rolled to a 61-10 win over the Cavaliers in Charlottesville Nov. 8, 1975 in front of 21,950 fans ... Virginia recorded an 8-4 record in 2004 (lost against Fresno State in the MPC Computers Bowl) ... Captured consecutive Continental Tire Bowl titles in 2002 (9-5) and 2003 (8-5).
Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech leads 8-4 in a series which opened in 1956 ... The two teams met 11 times between 1987 at 2000 ... The Pirates have dropped three of five games to the Hokies at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium while Virginia Tech has won five of seven matchups in Blacksburg ... At one point, ECU won four of six games (1987-1992) ... The second-largest crowd (45,123) in the history of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium attended the last meeting between the two programs (Sept. 7, 2000/Va. Tech 45, ECU 28) ... Has posted four double-digit win seasons in the last six years ... Recent bowl games of note include the Sugar Bowl ('04/10-3), Insight.com Bowl ('03/8-5), San Francisco Bowl ('02/10-4), Gator Bowl ('01/8-4, '00/11-1) and Sugar Bowl ('99/11-1).
West Virginia: West Virginia leads the series 14-2 ... WVU opened the series with eight straight wins before the Pirates posted their first victory in 1995 ... In fact, West Virginia held just a slight 3-2 edge in games played during the decade of the 1990s ... Recorded an 8-4 record in 2004 and closed the campaign by falling to Florida State in the Gator Bowl ... Mountaineers were 8-5 in 2003 and also made a Gator Bowl appearance (Maryland).