NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, August 3, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Winning 'em over in back
country not easy
All rights reserved.
JASPER, GA — I’m deep in the far reaches of
North Georgia, working with my family at a camp with people from all over
What has struck me out here, some 600 miles from
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, is the general cluelessness about the athletic
endeavors of the Pirates or even the very existence of East Carolina. My
2-year-old son’s ECU T-shirt is the solitary purple and gold item I’ve
laid eyes on in three weeks.
Which is to say, the ECU Pirates are still far
from a household name. I’ve had to evoke the name of either Skip Holtz’s
father or a few select bowl triumphs to get even a glimmer of recognition
from the people I’ve talked to here. And even then, they may have only been
nodding to be polite.
I’m not trying to depress the Pirate faithful
right on the cusp of football preseason. I’m simply trying to offer some
perspective and a goal: to build the types of programs that capture the
imaginations of sports fans with far different regional biases than our own.
That kind of recognition can happen in two ways.
It can come in a brilliant, dramatic fireworks show — think George Mason
basketball or Boise State football in 2006 — or it can come through years of
carefully assembling, one laborious victory after another, coaches and
players who earn steady respect from their competitors and the media.
Even when a program does virtually everything
right for a very long time (Southern Miss football, Gonzaga basketball),
they run the risk of being blinded by the light from the flavor of the day.
We’re a fickle nation when it comes to our news
events and our sports bandwagons, and sometimes even if slow and steady
really does win the race, our round-the-clock screen-scrolling culture
awards the medal to someone flashier.
As Bonesville's Denny O’Brien
reported earlier this week from New
Orleans, that’s the unique burden of being a “mid-major,” and as much as
Steve Logan loathed the cliché, there really is a next level for ECU, one
whose entry is all but blocked by the BCS.
The BCS may be a lurking shadow, but consistent
excellence could still elevate the Pirates in the next few years. And Holtz
and Terry Holland are blazing a hopeful trail upward with ambitious
scheduling, aggressive hiring and brick-by-brick recruiting.
They have to do their part, as do the players
who carry the load of
September’s daunting lineup on their
But the other major catalyst in this equation is
of course, the media. And as unpredictable as American press coverage is,
there are a couple of promising developments on the ECU media front for this
• The announcement
that fans will be able to view
every Pirate football game on television
for the first time in eight years. Four games will be broadcast on WITN-TV,
four on the new Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, three on CSTV, one on ESPN
Regional and one, the home opener at Virginia Tech, on ESPN with the
playing host to the network’s College GameDay
• Articulate players
like senior offensive tackle Josh Coffman, who had a memorable turn on a
CSTV interview from the C-USA Media Days. Despite moderate heckling from
studio hosts Carter Blackburn and Brian Jones, Coffman was bright and
funny during the exchange, which can be viewed at
At one point, in a
discussion about the Pirates’ summer conditioning regimen, Coffman
referred to the players’ new discoveries in the training room every day
as strength coach Mike Golden’s “Pandora’s Box.” Golden always has some
new apparatus or method for them to try, Coffman said.
At the conclusion of
the segment, Blackburn said that he had to run for the dictionary to
look Coffman’s Greek mythology reference. It was a brief moment that
created a memorable interview and a lasting impression of Pirate
Now, as the pads come
out of storage and playbooks earn a home on bedside tables across
campus, sound bites will be less important than building blocks to
another winning season and the only sure path to recognition in places
like remotest Georgia.
Send an e-mail message to
Dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville
08/03/2007 02:36:24 AM