ECU Pirates :: Traditions

Why Pirates?


Pirates were sea-going bandits in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It has been reported that in the age of piracy, from around 1680 to 1725, there were about 10,000 pirates who sailed the high seas in search of bounty.

Although most pirates were feared, they were not the uncivilized roughnecks that they have been portrayed in modern times. The had many positive features. David Cordingly, the author of "Under the Black Flag: The Romance and Reality of Life Among the Pirates," noted some of their good traits.

  • Pirates observed the democratic process by electing their own captains and voting on whether to attack other vessels. They also decided together on when and where to sail.

  • In most cases their loot was divided fairly.

  • They developed an early kind of disability payment that paid for body parts lost in battle.

  • Pirate ships offered equal opportunity for blacks and whites.

  • Sailors on pirate ships lived by specific rules. Gambling, for example, was not permitted on ships. Pirates could smoke on board, but not below deck after dark.

    East Carolina University adopted Pirates as an athletic namesake because the school is located near the North Carolina coast where pirates often harbored their ships. Edward Teach, known as "Blackbeard," had property in Bath and on Ocracoke Island. The remains of one of Blackbeard's ships, the Queen Anne's Revenge, was recently found near Beaufort, N.C.

    East Carolina's athletic teams became the Pirates in 1934, according to the late ECU historian Mary Jo Bratton. She reported that the Men's Athletic Association wanted a name to inspire "more spirit and enthusiasm." The football, baseball and basketball teams back then were called "Teachers." The Tecoan, the college yearbook, introduced the pirate motif in its 1934 edition.