Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statement Thursday urging officials at East Carolina and Virginia Tech to resolve a scheduling dispute that began when the Pirates chose to ride out Hurricane Florence in the safety of Florida last fall rather than risk traveling into harm’s way to play a scheduled game against the Hokies in Blacksburg.
In retaliation, Tech cancelled games under contract to played at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2019, 2023 and 2025. There’s a good chance the 2020, 2022 and 2024 games scheduled for the Hokies’ home field won’t be played either, especially considering that Tech has already added a 13th game — one more than allowed by the NCAA — for 2024.
Cooper expressed his disappointment over the apparent end to what was once a friendly rivalry between schools from neighboring states.
“I don’t think it’s a good look for Virginia Tech,” he said. “To cancel all these games because East Carolina made the right move to cancel the football game when the deadliest storm in North Carolina’s history came across our beaches and into our state, so we need to figure out a way to keep this rivalry going.”
Cooper added that while he hopes the series between the Pirates and Hokies can be saved, ECU should consider legal action to recover revenue lost from the cancellations if it can’t.
The Governor should be commended for his show of support to a state school that often gets the short end of the stick compared to some of its higher profile UNC system cousins. At the same time, his sentiments can also be construed as little more than a political gesture aimed at courting voters he’ll need for his reelection bid 22 months hence.
Either way, there are already enough frivolous lawsuits clogging up our judicial system without adding another one — over some football games, no less.
Instead of continuing a fight that has already fractured the relationship between the two schools, it’s better for the Pirates and Hokies to simply acknowledge their irreconcilable differences, file for divorce and amicably move forward in their own separate directions.
With at least a dozen Tech players entering the NCAA’s transfer portal, coach Justin Fuente has more important things to worry about right now than who and where his team is going to play in five years.
Scheduling is just as low a priority for new ECU coach Mike Houston, whose immediate focus is getting settled into his new surroundings and beginning the process of rebuilding a program coming off three straight 3-9 seasons.
Besides, Tech may actually have done the Pirates a favor by pulling out of their game this fall.
By replacing the Hokies with William & Mary — a fill-in game announced by athletic director Jon Gilbert earlier last week — the road to six wins and a bowl bid in Houston’s first year became a lot more manageable.
This is not to suggest that the Tribe is a guaranteed win. It’s anything but, considering ECU’s history against FCS opponents over the past two years.
However, it’s an inarguable fact that there’s a distinct advantage to playing a team from the Colonial Athletic Association that went 4-6 last season rather than a Power 5 opponent that’s hung 54 and 64 points on the Pirates the past two times they’ve met.
It also doesn’t hurt that the rest of the 2019 nonconference schedule includes less-than-intimidating dates against Gardner-Webb and Old Dominion, along with a season opening trip to a rebuilding N.C. State.
So let the Governor and his fellow politicians concentrate on the more important issues that face our state while ECU’s football program puts its past behind it and moves on.
With a new coach, a renovated Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and a young team led by an exciting franchise quarterback in Holton Ahlers preparing to play in it, there’s too much for ECU to look forward to this fall than to waste any time, energy or emotion fighting a fight that isn’t worth winning.