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View from the 'ville
Thursday, September 23, 2010

By Al Myatt

Vacek's Roundup: Read all about it

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Greg Vacek gets up at 4:30 a.m. every day to assemble the links that comprise the frequently-hit Web Roundup on Bonesville. It's a labor of love for the Charlotte-based father of three. East Carolina is his university and the Pirates are his team.

Vacek has been doing the roundup since Bonesville cranked up in 2001. He collaborated initially on the daily undertaking with David McFadyen, III, but Vacek has been flying solo since McFadyen left for law school in 2002. Actually, Vacek occasionally has had company.

"I've done links with one hand at times and a milk bottle in the other as my children have grown up," he said.

The driving force for meeting the demanding routine has been his passion for ECU. When Bonesville editor and publisher Danny Whitford conceived of the site he wanted a Linkmeister to post external news links relating to Pirate athletics and beyond. The computer-savvy Vacek was already involved with something similar on his own.

"I showed (Danny) some of the things I did and it looked like a good fit," Vacek said. "I was interested from the start. As many dedicated Pirate fans do, I was searching for information all the time anyway so it was something that just came naturally, something that I had a passion for.

"Growing up in Greenville, I followed the Pirates for a long time. Now that I don't live in town, the Internet helps make the community a little bit smaller."

Vacek grew up in a neighborhood where former ECU football coaches Pat Dye and Ed Emory resided. He played football with Emory's son, Battle, in high school. He started going to ECU football games in the late 1970s.

Vacek, who graduated from ECU in 1990 with a degree in marketing management, might feel closer to his roots as he works on the Web Roundup but Whitford notes that the links have expanded the horizons of Bonesville's readership. The Web Roundup puts Conference USA headlines a mouse click away, a tremendous asset for readers from Marshall to Central Florida to Texas-El Paso.

"Where else is a Conference USA or college sports fan going to find that kind of resource updated daily on one convenient page?" Whitford said.

The daily process

Vacek was an offensive guard in his playing days at Rose High in Greenville, where he was coached by ECU letterman Chip Williams. The Rampants played at Ficklen Stadium in that era. Vacek gets feedback on the Web Roundup when he can get home for a Pirate football game, which is as often as possible.

"Sometimes when I talk to people, at UBE or tailgating or things like that, people think a lot of it is very automated," Vacek said of the process by which the Web Roundup is compiled. "It can take on average about three to four hours a day. Early on, I didn't have high-speed Internet so I used dial-up. With dial-up, it was definitely four hours all the time. With Google (search), it helps out a lot now.

"Back when I started this, I would just go to all the web sites for all the different newspapers and look at that and try to find interesting stories that way."

Because Vacek works behind an Internet firewall at his day job in the financial world, he doesn't update the roundup as news breaks. Still, he posts the stories the following day. There are links on the Bonesville site for stories on the roundup dating back to 2001, which is getting to be quite an historical archive.

"I pretty much go through a series of links that I have on a daily basis, whether it's national headlines or regional," Vacek said. "I go through those links in order. A lot of times, if I go through any earlier than 4:30 in the morning, the newspaper web sites aren't updated. I find out I miss a lot unless I wait until a little bit later in the day."

He checks news sites from USA Today right on down to the most remote C-USA media outposts. His sources changed significantly with conference realignment several years ago.

Vacek takes his three children to school before he goes to work, which compacts the time frame for putting the Web Roundup together.

"My wife (Missie) will say, 'You need to hurry it up and get it done,' " he said.

His compensation for the Web Roundup has helped bridge gaps in layoffs during his employment with First Union, Wachovia and now, Wells Fargo. Football season is a bountiful span for the roundup.

"The stories are a little bit harder to come by in the summer than they are this time of year," Vacek said.

Whitford, who also operates a statewide computer business and publishes The Pirates' Chest magazine for the ECU Pirate Club, appreciates what's involved in doing the Web Roundup on a consistent basis.

"Greg's role with Bonesville is just as important as the role of our traditional staff writers and columnists," Whitford said. "He is a research journalist and his professionalism is apparent every day in the product he produces.

"In the Internet age, reference information and the means to find sourced material quickly have become vital assets to journalists. I have become aware that the Web Roundup has become a go-to resource for a number of reporters from various media outlets. That says something about the quality of Greg's research."

Out of necessity, Vacek tends to burn the candle a bit on both ends. His children are currently involved in soccer practices after school. Daughter Grier is 11, son Brendan is 7 and daughter Marett is 4. He spent last Saturday refereeing a youth soccer game while listening to the ECU-Virginia Tech football game on headphones.


All in the Family: Greg Vacek, center, and, left to right, wife Missie, daughter
Grier, son Brendan and daughter Marett at the ECU-Tulsa game on Sept. 5.

Occasionally, a decision must be made between his kids' youth soccer games or an ECU football game at home. Vacek noted that his son is looking forward to the N.C. State game, which was announced Wednesday as a sellout, on Oct. 16.

"I used to be able to get to bed at 10 o'clock but now with three kids, a lot of times after they go to bed at nine, we'll have a lot of stuff to get together," Vacek said. "I'll watch a little TV to wind down. In between 10 and 11, I'll go to bed but most of the time, more elevenish. ... I've got a spread sheet with all the football games, all the soccer games and other activities we have going on."

He teaches his son's Sunday school class, too. Sometimes he gets an e-mail that he's posted the wrong date on the roundup in his haste. If he's late getting the roundup online, there might be a "Greg is sleeping in" thread on Pirate message boards. His schedule being what it is, Vacek can't read all the material he posts in its entirety.

"I go through there and I get a link and I get a snippet of an idea and I have to go on to the next one to get it done in a timely fashion," he said. "I try to prioritize or bold the stories that I think are of (greater) interest. I try to avoid duplication on wire stories but most of the time I post multiple stories (of the same event or issue) because there are always versions from different people's perspectives."

Great moments, current analysis

Asked about his most memorable moments as a follower of the Pirates, Vacek mused and said, "Definitely, the Peach Bowl (37-34 win over N.C. State to cap the 1991 season). My whole family was there. ... Going to N.C. State and playing Miami (27-23 win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh in 1999) and the victory there. More recently, the domination over West Virginia (24-3 in 2008). ... I guess another favorite game would be when we played South Carolina in Columbia when it was pouring down, torrential rain and Scott Harley ran all over them (291 rushing yards in a 23-7 Pirates win in 1996)."

Like much of the Pirate Nation, Vacek awaits memories that are yet to be made. A 49-27 loss at Virginia Tech made apparent the need for work to be done before the next game at North Carolina on Oct. 2.

"I'm positive," Vacek said. "It's like Coach (Ruffin McNeill) said, 'We still have a lot of growing to do.' I figured that (Virginia Tech) would probably run on us. We're probably like some of (former ECU coach, Steve) Logan's teams. We're going to have to outscore people. ... I wasn't surprised when they started running on us and having success that way. We were ahead and they made the right adjustments at halftime. We weren't able to counter that. When you've got big people who can block and push you out of the way, it's going to happen.

"We're going to have to find ways to stop the running."

The motivation

It would require significant motivation for most people to do anything on a regular basis at 4:30 a.m.

"The enjoyment I get is that I'm able to bring together a lot of news stories and bring positive light to East Carolina, the Pirates," Vacek said. "The news is out there for people to find but sometimes it's not as prevalent as other schools around the country, especially for people who are not in the area of Eastern North Carolina.

"To pull and get all the information in one place was a unique opportunity. We try to plan our vacations. I haven't missed many days out of the 365 days that I do this. Christmas Day, I do it and other days, too. I've done it from Bojangles in Greenville. I've done it from Panera Bread. I've done it dial-up at the beach, at Starbucks at the beach or borrowing off somebody's wireless connection that I find. I might be holding a baby somewhere."

Circumstances can be frustrating.

"Recently, they put an irrigation system in and they cut our Internet lines and our phone lines," Vacek said. "Not being able to do that for awhile was irritating, too."

Despite the obstacles, Vacek's work doesn't go unnoticed.

"The visitor traffic drawn by the Web Roundup page has increased every year since Bonesville was launched and the increase in traffic has accelerated noticeably over the last two or three years," Whitford said. "The growth in traffic has come from word-of-mouth sharing by readers. The roundup has been popular with ECU fans since the very beginning, but an important part of the more recent increase has come from out-of-state readers who have made the page a regular destination."

You can view Vacek's handiwork daily at

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

10/20/2010 01:01 AM


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