With the new early signing period rapidly approaching — it begins on Wednesday, Dec. 18 — East Carolina football coach Mike Houston and his staff are on the road working hard to recruit the kind of talent that will help the Pirates be competitive and win in the American Athletic Conference.
By all accounts, they’re in the process of putting together a class that rates in the top half of the league’s rankings.
In the meantime, back home in Greenville, a different kind of recruiting is taking place.
While the targets of athletic director Jon Gilbert’s efforts will never score a touchdown, make a tackle or even take the field wearing purple and gold, their contributions are still vitally important to ECU’s long-term success.
We’re talking about you, the fans.
It’s been a tough four years for the Pirates. The crowds at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium have reflected that. But Houston has already shown signs of breathing life back into the once proud program.
In the meantime, Gilbert is doing his part to rekindle a spark in a passionate, but frustrated fan base by reaching out directly to Pirate Nation in the form of an open letter.
“Progress was made under head coach Mike Houston that saw our team make noticeable gains throughout the year,” he wrote. “We had several games that could have gone either way, but overall progress was made especially in terms of the culture being formed.
“I understand and share your frustration when the Pirates don’t win. You decide every Saturday in the fall to spend your hard-earned income to support our football program. I get it. I’m not naïve to it. I am thankful for your continued support. We will get better.
“The one point I emphasize to you is that our coaches, staff and student-athletes are committed to returning East Carolina football to its rightful place.”
Gilbert’s comments were little more than a rhetorical pep rally designed to inspire the troops and sell some season tickets. It also served as a plea to members of the Pirate Club to re-up their donations for the coming year, a task someone has to take on with the news that the group’s executive director Phillip Wood will be stepping down at the end of the month.
There was some substance to Gilbert’s correspondence. He announced that ticket prices for the 2020 season will remain the same as they were for 2019 and that he and his staff are planning a series of town hall-type meetings this spring to hear directly from fans on how ECU can improve its game day experience.
That interaction with the paying customers already represents an improvement over his predecessor Jeff Compher.
But talk only goes so far.
While it’s a proven fact that the best teams are often those that receive the most support from their administrators and communities, it’s never easy to convince skeptical fans to make such a large investment of time, money and emotion on a team that doesn’t reward them with positive results.
It’s a classic chicken and egg proposition.
Support brings about success, but fans want to wait for the success to happen before going all in with their support.
The only way to break that never-ending cycle is by taking a leap of faith and buying what Gilbert is selling — both at the ticket office and with the assumption that better days are just the flip of a calendar away.
Don’t understand the fair weather fans. I’ve been a PC member since 1967 and have not dropped out through the touch years. I was a season ticket holder for 40 years but can no longer travel 535 miles to and from the games. But, I give to the PC and will as long as I’m physically able to write the checks..
Archie McBerry says
We will have arrived when the Pirate Club raises twice the amount raised by student athletic fees. Cannot expect the students to carry the load.
The Kidd says
My wife and I have been in the Pirate Club for 37 consecutive years. I don’t know how long we’ve been buying season tix but it is probably around that many years. We just upped our Pirate Club giving 10%. The programs go up and down over the years. But one constant remains. ECU is my alma mater. My wifes’ alma mater. My son and daughters’ alma mater. Coach Houston will right the ship, Coach Dooley will eventually finally give ECU a presence in Bball, and Coach Godwin will win us our second baseball national title. It is a mind game that Vince Lombardi said best. Winning is a habit and so is losing. I think these three guys are the ones that can get it done breaking bad habits and instill in these young men that they should win at whatever they do ALL the time. I am optimistic!
don tyson says
Well said Kidd
Pirate Next Door says
I’ve been a Pirate Club Member and Season Ticket holder since 1980. I have only missed a very few handful of home games over what will be 40 years now. I hated missing the very few that I didn’t go to. The only way ECU recovers is if out alumni, students, and fans come out and attend games. Not only in Football but basketball, and baseball. Heck, for that matter women’s basketball, softball, lacrosse, etc. Support the Pirate Club, even if it’s at the lowest PC level. Support by attending games. Win or lose. Just support the Pirate teams because we are Pirates.