It wasn’t a good weekend to be an East Carolina fan.
On Friday, the Pirates’ basketball team, filled with promise thanks to an almost complete overhaul of its roster, saw a strong effort turn into a 62-57 loss at Navy thanks to one ill-timed second half scoring drought. It was a hauntingly similar scenario to the way last year’s team — with all those different players — frequently got beat.
Less than 24 hours later, coach Mike Houston’s football team went down to Dallas and put on an entertaining show against No. 23 Southern Methodist. But in the end, it suffered a 59-51 defeat that was almost a carbon copy of last week’s heartbreaking setback to then-No. 17 Cincinnati.
They were a pair of losses that in at least one way of thinking, could legitimately be written off as an uncomfortable side effect of growing programs in the early stages of a building process.
The members of the basketball team, for instance, are still just getting to know one another both on the court and off and have yet to firmly establish roles or a solid chemistry.
And the football team had the misfortune of facing arguably the two best opponents on its schedule, veteran squads that already know to win. Certainly not the best of matchups for a team still struggling to get over the hump in a close game.
While all that is true, there comes a time in which extenuating circumstances such as matchups, inexperience, injuries and even just plain bad luck become nothing more than a crutch enabling the acceptance of performances that just aren’t good enough.
There comes a time when the call for patience becomes white noise, because regardless of how bright the future might be — and it is for both the Pirates football and basketball programs — it always seems as if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.
That time has arrived.
ECU and its fans deserve better than what they’re getting.
Instead of patting teams on the back for making progress or showing heart or in the case of football over the past two weeks, for getting close against top competition, the school’s coaches, athletes, administrators and fans must begin holding their programs to a higher standard.
One that demands tangible results rather than just hope and promise.
This is especially true on the gridiron, where the Pirates haven’t simply been beaten by better teams over the past two weeks. Against Cincinnati and then again at SMU, they essentially beat themselves by making costly self-inflicted mental mistakes at the worst possible moments.
“We just can’t keep making the same mistakes,” a frustrated Houston told reporters after the game. “We’ve made tremendous strides, but we’ve got to win these games.
“It’s hard to win in this league,” the first-year coach continued. “We’ve got to correct the mistakes that are correctable.”
There are certain things that aren’t correctable. For them, the only answer is going out and recruiting better players — starting on defense. But until that can be done, a priority has to be placed on eliminating the silly little things that become catastrophic when a game is on the line.
Things such a quarterback not seeing a Cincinnati defender waiting to jump his receiver’s route in the flat with nothing but Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium turf between him and a game-changing pick six.
Or a breakdown in communication that caused teammates to play a game of “I got it, you take it” on a late kickoff, allowing SMU to recover and score a clinching touchdown.
It’s exciting to watch amazing feats of individual talent and celebrate performances that will live on for years in the ECU record books. And there have been more than a few of those over the past couple of weeks.
Celebrating wins, however, is a lot more fun.
Maybe next weekend will be better.
I’m sorry, but you’re rushing this thing. Maybe you pine for the days of uncompetitive football and Scottie Mo? We have that man And his boss three years to burn our football program, and by and large, our entire athletic department to the ground. While we ALL want wins, we need to step back from the edge and see that dynamic improvements this team has made. I mean, if SM was still here that score yesterday would have been 59-14, at best. You should have been writing accountability opinions two years ago, not waiting until now.
Chuck Rigsbee says
Sorry Dude……yes it is frustrating to lose but there is no overnight fix for years of neglect for the basketball program and Jeff Compher’s horrible tenure over the athletic department. The football team is finally showing a pulse and is doing it with primarily freshmen and sophmores. The Bball team has only played 2 games together. If you were thinking there would not be growing pains for both programs the that is not realistic.
I love it when folks state the obvious, I’m surprised that it came from a supposedly ECU beat columnist. Terrible article and very shallow.
Brett is far from an ECU beat writer. Check out his Twitter bio. Nothing there about ECU, only that he has covered the ACC since Moses parted the Red Sea. So maybe it makes more sense that he’d write such nonsense, a veiled attempt to divide Pirate fans who are, at this point, willing to give progress time to come to fruition in wins.
Ghost of Seasons Past says
Ah, the hypocrisy of those that can never be happy with our existing coaches, wanting to “move to the next level” where our coaches can’t possibly take us, who destroy our athletic program, then whine and complain because the current coaches can’t recover from the years of terrible leadership in less than a season. You reap what you sow by how your support the team and who you support in leadership.
Normally, I enjoy reading your comments. However, especially given current circumstances, it is one of the most ridiculous columns I have ever read. Like one of the posters above said, where was this column two years ago in the second year of Scottie, and the 6th, 7th, or 8th year of Jeff Lebo?
I feel you have some axe to grind against current administration? While in no way do I ‘accept’ the way things are, the progress made in football, and promise of a highly ranked recruiting class, give me the “hope” that we have turned the corner. Next year, if things are the same, would be the time for this column.
With regard to basketball – They have to get some progress this year. The loss to Navy is hopefully one in the “bad loss” column. It’s way too early in the season to cast them in such a negative light.
Paul E McRae says
absolutely, couldn’t believe what i was reading
Anyone with a clue about Pirate Football couldn’t have realistically expected more than a 6-6 finish this year. As a long time Pirate Club member and season ticket holder, I surely didn’t. This years performance isn’t wearing me down, it’s giving me hope. Hope that we had no reason for the past 3-4 seasons. We made correctable mistakes, that cost us legitimate chances to win against not only top tier conference opponents but top 25 ranked teams, all while playing freshmen and sophomores. They will learn to win. We are close, really close. The future is bright.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and winning football and basketball teams in this conference aren’t either – with the expedited rate of improvement it isn’t a stretch to see us developing veteran players and taking down the Cincinnati’s and SMU’s on the field and on the court in 2020.
Fun Again! says
Relax folks, a wise coach once said when rebuilding. You lose big, then you lose little, then you win little, and then , you win big! Anybody with an objective point of view can see the dramatic improvement in the players, the team, the coaching staff, the whole program period. Houston is Top notch. I’m also for the first time in a long time optimistic for the BBall team. Lets stop the silly nit picking and recognize what’s going on here. We were on the bottom, the bottom! I’m truly excited for the future of our football program. I have total faith in Houston. Give him time. Quality man, quality coach, he’ll build it the right way. Go Pirates! Keep rowing!!!!
Houston has a great won loss record. But. What is his record in the Big Boy League?
His record thus far is dependent upon what he was left with. Hold your fire until about a year from now and again in two years.
Paul E McRae says
What in the world is wrong with you Brett? Football Pirates getting close, horrible article!
Friedlander said this: “There comes a time when the call for patience becomes white noise, because regardless of how bright the future might be — and it is for both the Pirates football and basketball programs — it always seems as if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. That time has arrived. ECU and its fans deserve better than what they’re getting.”
Are you kidding, playing two nationally ranked team as this team did after the history of the past three years? What would you say if the Pirates has played LSU and Alabama reasonably well but lost? Would the light still be coming?
Did you eve consider what the scores would have been if last year’s coaching staff was still here?
Brett … you can ‘t see the forest for the trees. You are better than this.
Good time for a break this next weekend..
Irish Spectre says
This is somewhat beside the point of the article, but I find interesting that the one play called out from the football game was the muffed kickoff late. I think that the bigger failure was that 4th and 20 SMU conversion for the TD from the ECU 31 right before it. For the ECU d not to stop that was pretty much inexcusable, and frankly in my view made the Pirates undeserving of the “W.”
…but undoubtedly they are improving, and significantly. They will roll over UConn. Tulsa will be a legit test, but, barring a step backward (thinking USF), I anticipate them taking that one, also.