For a few fleeting moments, extended by a calming week off, there was reason to hope — and perhaps even believe — that East Carolina had finally turned a corner and taken the first baby steps back toward football respectability.
Turns out ECU’s encouraging homecoming victory over Brigham Young was nothing more than a momentary rest stop on a still unfinished journey down to rock bottom.
It took less than a quarter Saturday at Houston for the promise of that BYU game to fade away like a mirage to a thirsty traveler trudging through the desert. Three quick Cougar touchdowns and a 21-0 deficit ended any delusion that things might have changed for the better.
The record-setting performances of quarterback Gardner Minshew and wide receiver Trevon Brown were only small consolation for the Pirates. In the end, the final score of 52-27 and the ugly numbers that accompanied it on the stat sheet were all too familiar, as was the lament coach Scottie Montgomery used to explain away yet another lopsided loss.
“We didn’t execute the way we had this week during practice,” he said. “I thought turnovers on offense were a big deal and defensively we didn’t cover.”
In other words, his team is still making the same mistakes it has been since an opening night blowout at the hands of James Madison.
The 52 points allowed marked the fifth time this season that ECU has been burned for at least half a hundred. The Pirates netted just 36 yards on the ground, committed three more turnovers, leading to 21 Houston points, and allowed two more scoring plays of 62 yards or longer.
That’s nine such catastrophic plays for the season for those of you keeping score at home.
The point is that after changing defensive coordinators, bringing in a veteran defensive consultant, changing quarterbacks multiple times and going through an assorted number of other lineup changes, the only one Montgomery has left to blame for a team that has shown little-to-no growth over the past nine weeks is himself.
The second-year coach acknowledged that at least somewhat Saturday when after saying that he and his staff are putting their players “in situations where eventually they will start making plays,” he admitted that he and his assistants “need to do a better job of coaching them into those positions.”
They might not want to wait too long for that to start happening.
There are only three more games left in the season and, quite possibly, Montgomery’s tenure in Greenville. While two of those three games are realistically winnable — this week against Tulane and the following Saturday against Cincinnati — it’s more likely than not that the Pirates will finish 2017 with an even worse record than last year’s 3-9 debacle.
The Pirates’ only two wins have come against two of the few teams in the country that are worse than they are.
When athletic director Jeff Compher fired Ruffin McNeill as coach in December 2015, his reasoning was that ECU’s program “was not meeting competitive expectations.”
If it wasn’t then, what is it now?
An argument can be made that McNeill’s recruiting effort in the years prior to his ouster was lacking and the talent in the cupboard he left behind was poorly stocked, if not bare.
And to a point that’s true.
But it’s also an undeniable fact that in Montgomery, Compher took a flyer on a young replacement who, as it turns out, was clearly thrown in over his head as a first-time head coach.
So what does Compher do now?
His only two options are to cut his losses and try again by bringing in another new coach and staff to clean up the mess, in much the same way as his predecessor Terry Holland did with Skip Holtz. Or he can ride it out with Montgomery in hopes that the past two years of on-the-job training will help the young coach correct the recurring mistakes his team continues to make week after week after week after week on its ongoing trip to irrelevance.
It’s a decision Compher won’t be able to put off much longer now that the mirage of rare victory and the calming bye week that followed has faded back into the reality of disappointing performances and lopsided defeats.
Thank you, Brett, this article pretty well sums up what most of us are thinking. Not sure what Compher and company were thinking when they hired Coach Mo. He clearly lacked the resume to handle the job.
The Kidd says
He had to because he was the best candidate at the time for the funding available. Remember, Compher originally extended Ruffin an extension which he did not accept. Then, Ruffin decided he would push his boss into a corner and it backfired on him. Anyone with a brain would have fired him at the time too. The AD, the Chancellor and ALL Trustees voted unanimously to fire Ruffin. This was not a plan! Jeff Compher was the NCAA Athletics Director of the year for the entire country a few years ago. Coach Mo has learned his offense can rock during practice when its playing against the worlds worst defense. I don’t know how a coach fixes that. But I think Jeff Compher should get a mulligan here because of the situation he was in and ECU’s continuing lack of athletic funding. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!
Ruff went to bat to get his well deserving assistants raises and extensions as well….which *maybe* would have had some sway in keeping Riley around. With no extra money, and a volatile situation, Riley made the only reasonable choice and left. That is when the spiral started and that is what led to the firing of the one active ncaa coach that wasn’t looking for ECU to be his stepping stone.
The ‘ripples’ made no one else WANT the job because it was made abundantly clear that not only did we have no money and exceedingly high expectations, we had an AD who shows no loyalty to anyone. He made sure we will go back to coaches that just want to use us while looking around for more.
Compher screwed us, and he should resign. Our program has hit rock bottom and is trying to burrow down even further. Maybe we can give Mo one more year to see if he’s learned anything or maybe has a magic rabbit somewhere. But I’m not so sure.
The Kidd says
First, Riley was gone before a contract extension was being discussed. Keep in mind when Riley left everyone had an EXISTING contract for FOUR more years. In this world of the unfair and un-American BCS Monopoly there is no way we were going to keep Riley. We simply don’t have the funding. Heck, how we are able to compete in the AAC is amazing. Before we attack Compher and what he is paying people I would suggest that everyone take a look online and see how far down the AAC totem pole ECU is with Athletic Budget and coaching pay. Compher doesn’t have a magic wand, money tree or money printing press. Everyone should HAMMER our politicians about doing something about the Monopoly called the BCS. And we should also have twice the Pirate Club members. If you want to gripe about coaches pay then break out your checkbook.
Also, there was no volatile situation with Riley after a 10 win season. So, I don’t know what you mean there. The volatile situation began right after he left when Ruff refused to travel (weight maybe?) to recruit and required his assistants travel to recruit (why they need more pay maybe?).
Do you really think after Ruffs’ 5-7 year and the recruits we were getting after Riley left that we would be much better over the past 2 years than with Coach Mo? Maybe we would have been a little better due to continuity. But, what are we aspiring to? Mediocrity? I’ll take rolling the dice. Lets see…..Longest losing streak in the country in the ’80’s with Art Baker then we have Bill Lewis/Steve Logan…………4-18 John Thompson then we get Skip Holtz and 2 conference titles. Yeah, pain every 15-20 years but success the rest of the time. I’ll roll the dice!
Bottom line is with the current monopoly BCS we hopefully will be successful enough to have our coaches sought after. That means they are winning! What I don’t think ECU can handle is a “Prima Donna” for a Coach that is really great at fielding .500 teams year after year after year………. that would be worse than a couple of bad years and a coaching change.
“We simply don’t have the funding. Heck, how we are able to compete in the AAC is amazing. Before we attack Compher and what he is paying people I would suggest that everyone take a look online and see how far down the AAC totem pole ECU is with Athletic Budget and coaching pay. Compher doesn’t have a magic wand, money tree or money printing press. ”
Which makes his firing of McNeill even more dumb. We were overachieving relative to our budget. This isn’t even taking into account Compher had no plan and no clue what kind of candidate pool he could attract. I have a good feeling that you probably have some relationship with Compher or are attached to this administration.
Clinton Thomas says
The NCAA statistics for the game indicate ECU had 504 yds. Things are bad enough without writers getting their facts wrong!
Danny Whitford says
Clinton: The error you pointed out was brought to my attention by Brett. It has been corrected. Thank you for letting us know. — Danny Whitford, Editor
I have never coached at any level, or played football. But having worked in personnel with one of the country’s corporations, I know something about hiring and picking qualified personnel.
With that said, I was completely dismayed why Scott Montgromery was hired. I was thinking that someone knows something that I don’t. There are so many young coaches and coodinators that are out there that I believe ECU could have hired that could put together a good program. A good example is UCF. Sorry Mr. AD, but if i were writing your performance review, you would get a “unsatisfactory”.
The Kidd says
It was not a plan to fire Ruffin, Ruffin fired himself by thinking he could take over the Athletic Department and talk smack to his boss, soon after he was fired he worked overtime to poison the waters at East Carolina in relation to a new hire. I loved Ruff but don’t anymore
The Kidd says
Also, its all about money. If I remember correctly, Scott Frost at UCF makes about 3 times what we can pay. Eastern NC isn’t Orlando. Lots of perks and lots of money there. We didn’t have the time nor the money. If we want better coaches then we need to put our money where our mouths are! Or better yet, start HAMMERING our politicians about the unfair and un-American monopoly called the BCS.
I have a lot of sympathy for Coach Montgomery. He seems like a nice guy, but one who’s in over his head. Compher wasn’t backed into a corner, He was offered a weak extension that would have made recruits question his security and didn’t reflect the overall success and stability he’d brought to the program. It was pretty clear that Compher wasn’t looking to keep Coach Ruff around. And when Ruff decided not to play that game, he was fired in a way that made ripples in coaching circles everywhere. You didn’t have to get the inside scoop on that to figure that out – all the backing away by any name put out there as a target made it abundantly clear that most established coaches had no desire to play for an administration and staff that would handle things so poorly in pretty much every respect.
That has resulted in a in inability to hire a coach with any head-coaching experience and thus a program that is not only failing to meet “competitive expectations” but has little short-to-medium term outlook to do so. What great recruit wants to walk into a dumpster fire nearly-last-in-the-nation defense with an uncertain staff that is even more uncertain at the Def. Coord. spot????
Lastly, the utter failure by Montgomery and Compher to at least take some responsibility for what has going on is the most disappointing. Step up and own it –
the hearts of the Pirates are large and forgiving. Pointing blame elsewhere, well…
In order to move East Carolina Football in the right direction, we need a new AD and a new coach. That isn’t said with any animus for either of these men. It is just true.
Apologies – I mis-typed the third sentence. It should read “Compher wasn’t backed into a corner. MacNeil was offered a weak extension that would have made recruits question his security and didn’t reflect the overall success and stability he’d brought to the program.”
The Kidd says
A 3 year extension on top of the remaining 3 years on your existing contract isn’t good enough? And this one year removed from losing Riley? Even after a 5-7 season and two years of mediocre recruiting? This isn’t good enough?
Boy, I should work for you!
L Person says
I just don’t get the blind support and excuses for AD Compher. Poor decisions, job searches every year. Barely believable reasons presented publically for firing Ruff. I support our school and programs, but changes in the administration of the athletic department are long past due.
The Kidd says
Because with the loss of Riley and two years of not very good recruiting we were on a path to what we have now……with or without Ruff. Riley, just like Logan before him, was the REAL reason that staff was successful.
Also, think about it. None, not 1 of the trustees, the chancellor nor the AD had a problem with the Ruff firing. Not 1. Unanimous. If it was a poor decision, that decision was not his alone! And if Mo turns out to be a bad hire–it happens! (remember some of T. Hollands’ hires that turned out bad like the ex-UVA basketball player as our basketball coach or the baseball coach he hired then had to fire due to hanky panky?). It happens.
Job searches. Does that mean that in your job you keep blinders on and don’t look into other opportunities? It didn’t for me!
“publicly for firing Ruff”. You are kidding, right? Ruffs contract stated that we owed the man $1.5M over the next 3 years UNLESS he gets a job of which that income will offset what ECU will have to pay. He would have never gotten the UVA job if Compher had released publicly what transpired. The man saved us $1.5M for crying out loud! He took the heat and saved us $1.5m! And yes, PirateWorld, as a linebackers coach at UVA he was making almost what he was as Pirate HC. Want Compher to have more options for a HC? Then break out your checkbook!
Also, Compher did pretty well with our Baseball coach hire. The fact of the matter is he has been the NCAA AD of the Year, he just received a 5 year contract, he is working with a shoestring budget and as Pirate fans we can support him and move on or we can continue living in the past, poisoning the ECU waters so that he will have a hard time getting new coaches. I prefer the former and want to move on.
GOOO PIRATES!!!! AAAARRRGGH!