What a difference a year makes at East Carolina University.
Compher exits for Jon Gilbert’s arrival. Montgomery exits for Mike Houston’s arrival.
Lebo exits for Joe Dooley’s arrival. Macy exits for Chad Killinger’s short interim stay, leading to Nicole Mealing’s new role as acting women’s coach.
You had better not blink or you’ll certainly miss something.
All of Eastern North Carolina seems energized by the change in football. Mike Houston has won everywhere he has been. Most of those that I’ve talked to in Pirate Nation feel like he’ll win here as well.
It’s the complete opposite of the apathy that was building in Scottie Montgomery’s second and third year at ECU. All of a sudden Pirate fans were finding something else to do on Saturday afternoons. Ticket sales plummeted. ECU football was dying.
Houston hasn’t won a game yet, but he’s got fans talking about Pirate football again. Everywhere I go I see the interest growing. People come up to me in restaurants, at the grocery store, at a basketball game with the same basic message. That message is that they are certainly looking forward to the football season.
Hope is back at ECU for football.
Much of that hope will once again fall on the shoulders of former D.H. Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers. Ahlers was the ONLY hope in 2018. Hopefully the team around him will be good enough to propel this team back to winning football.
Jon Gilbert was named as the new ECU Director of Athletics in December. Gilbert brings calmness to the athletics department. I have yet to meet some of his new hires but I look forward to that early in 2019.
While 2018 had plenty of challenges for East Carolina, there were also things to celebrate.
I was fortunate enough to be with the ECU baseball team in Clearwater, Florida, as the Pirates won the 2018 American Athletic Conference championship. The weather turned the tournament into a pitching nightmare for the league’s coaches. The Pirates showed heart and determination in winning the AAC title for the second time in Cliff Godwin’s four seasons as the Pirate coach.
That championship and the NCAA regional hosting role for the Pirate baseball team were by far the highlights of the year for me.
Seeing Clark-LeClair Stadium packed for the postseason was really special. All of Greenville was buzzing for baseball. The weather didn’t cooperate and the Pirates didn’t win, but still the foundation for future postseason success was laid.
Hopefully things will slow down a little in 2019 at East Carolina.
Here’s hoping Coach Dooley can get a few wins in the American this winter. It won’t be easy in this first season. Give Dooley time and I think we’ll finally see some winning basketball at Minges Coliseum.
In baseball, East Carolina is the preseason pick to win the American Athletic Conference. Coach Godwin has already put the word out for his team to “ignore the noise.” The Pirates will have a target on their back for sure, but hosting an NCAA regional will be the goal again in 2019.
Speaking of goals, I would think that Mike Houston’s goal in his first year is at least six wins. Houston has been successful at every stop he’s made. I’m not saying that Houston and the Pirates can win ten games this coming season, but I really believe the first Pirate team of the Houston era can hit the six-win mark and finally get ECU back in the postseason.
Happy New Year Pirate Nation! Here’s to a great year in 2019.