From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Firing hard to figure

Audio: Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guests this week were Jeff Gravley, Sammy Batten, Todd Gibson and Rose High School football coach David Wojtecki: Replay show...

View Pirate Radio 1250 Programming Lineup



ECU falls to Barry, C of C

CHARLESTON, SC — East Carolina outscored host College of Charleston 52-40 in the second half but it was too little, too late in a 77-73 loss to the Cougars on Monday night. ECU trailed by 18 points early in the second half but pulled within 71-69 on a 3-pointer by B.J. Tyson with 1:05 to go. ... More...

Next: ECU vs. NC A&T | Sun., 2 pm | TV: ESPN3



Stunning new era at hand

As head football coach at his alma mater, Ruffin McNeill avoided treating the position as though he were Chief Executive Officer of a business. McNeill favored a family model. He was daddy. The players were his sons. The assistant coaches and coordinators were uncles.

McNeill's abrupt dismissal Friday after an injury-plagued 5-7 season was a reminder that big-time college athletics is indeed a business. ... More from Al Myatt...

Pictured: Ruffin McNeill acknowledges the Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium crowd before what would turn out to be the East Carolina alum's final homecoming game as head coach of the Pirates, a 30-17 win over Tulsa on Oct. 17. (W.A. Myatt photo)


Lefties lead ECU

GREENVILLE — Left-handed scoring powered East Carolina past South Carolina-Upstate 82-71 in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Friday night. Sophomore B.J. Tyson led the way with a career-high 26 points. Freshman Kentrell Barkley had 18 points and junior Caleb White rounded out the southpaw assault with 13 points. ... More...



Aztecs a low point – and starting point

Al MyattEast Carolina caught San Diego State at the wrong time – following a loss – but since a 79-54 setback to the Aztecs on Nov. 23, the Pirates have shown steady improvement. ... More from Al Myatt...



Pirates start fast, finish strong

GREENVILLE — East Carolina never trailed in a 74-48 nonconference win over Florida Atlantic on Tuesday night. A 3-pointer by Caleb White put the Pirates ahead 5-2 with 16 minutes left in the first half and ECU (4-3) led the rest of the way. ... More...



Ruff & Co. have more bricks to lay

East Carolina’s football season came to a disappointing end on Saturday as the Pirates fell to Cincinnati 19-16. It wasn’t the ending this team, especially the seniors, was looking for. ... More from Brian Bailey...

Audio: The Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guests this week were ECU basketball coach Jeff Lebo (left) and Rose football coach David Wojtecki (right): Replay show...



ECU getting 'total package' in Dukes

Mooresville coach Hal Capps didn't hesitate when asked recently if his star defensive lineman Jamil Dukes compared to any players he'd previously coached or competed against. ... More from Sammy Batten...

Thumbnails: ECU's recruiting class of 2016...


By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


Ruffin McNeill deserved one more year.

I have racked my brain since Friday's announcement from East Carolina Director of Athletics Jeff Compher.

I can see both sides.

Compher wants to win championships, bottom line. ECU has not done that under Ruffin McNeill.

But the Pirates hadn't won a conference championship in 2013 when Compher inked McNeill to a contract extension which took his deal through the 2017 football season.

Did the Pirates underachieve at times? I think McNeill and his staff would be the first to say yes they did. The best team McNeill had was the Shane Carden and Justin Hardy group that won 10 games in 2013, but was unable to win a Conference USA title.

Those 10 wins marked only the second time in school history that a Pirate football team hit the double-digit mark in victories for a season.

That squad did win Coach McNeill's only bowl game at ECU, that 37-20 win over Ohio in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Pete to complete the 2013 season.

Expectations were sky-high in 2014 as ECU entered into the American Athletic Conference.

That team started the year 6-1 and was ranked nationally. However, the Pirates lost four of their last six games, including the Birmingham Bowl loss to Florida.

This year, expectations weren't all that high. Add in Kurt Benkert's season ending knee injury two weeks before the season started and five wins looked out of the question.

The problem with this year's team is that it showed glimpses of being one of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference. The close loss at Florida, the win over Virginia Tech, the close loss at Brigham Young, and very winnable outings against Temple, South Florida and Cincinnati.

Those close losses ultimately cost McNeill a shot at next year.

But all things considered, should Coach Ruff have been given one more season?

I say yes.

The Pirates moved up a notch when they began playing in the American Athletic Conference. The talent level is better than Conference USA. The linemen are bigger and stronger. Teams are deeper.

Regionally, the Pirates were totally frustrating their rivals from the Power Five Atlantic Coast Conference.

ECU has won its last five against the ACC. The Pirates slapped North Carolina silly in their last two meetings, cranking out 55 and 70 against the same Tar Heel program that played in the ACC championship game this past weekend in Charlotte.

What a difference a year makes. After last season's 70-41 Pirate win over North Carolina, the Tar Heel faithful were ready to run Larry Fedora out of Chapel Hill. Some in Greenville wanted to build a statue of Ruffin McNeill.

A year later Fedora has a new, seven-year contract extension and Ruffin McNeill is out of a job.

The Ruffin McNeill era went 6-7, 5-7, 8-5, 10-3, 8-5 and 5-7. That's a winning record in three of the last four years.

Three winning seasons in the last four years. Two blow-out wins over North Carolina. Playing this past season with no experience at quarterback.

Those are just the numbers.

Add in McNeill's undeniable love for his university, his players and his staff and the man was truly unique.

Ruffin McNeill was Pirate football.

Ruffin McNeill was family.

I can't tell you how many times I worked with Coach Ruff off the field. We were together each year for Special Olympics, Riley's Army, Swinging for Schwachman and countless other community occasions.

It was my honor to serve as emcee when McNeill received the key to the City of Greenville. I joked that night to his wife Earlene that Ruff had the key to the city and that I knew all of the great places to go. I joked that we'd be home late that night.

McNeill enjoyed helping others. He embraced that role as part of his responsibility to his school and his program.

My Dad came in for Thanksgiving and had never met Coach McNeill. Ruff invited us out to practice, and Dad enjoyed being there and talking shop with the coach.

I will never forget that encounter and I'm so glad that I got those two together on that day before Thanksgiving.

I understand college athletics is a business. But how do you go from receiving the key to the city in one breath and then being let go in the next?

Jeff Compher was asked about giving McNeill one of his final two years on his contract to turn things around.

“I know many people were shocked by this," Compher said. "I felt like we needed to make this decision now and not wait a year and potentially be faced with the same situation.”

Or Compher could have been faced with offering his coach a contract extension after a winning season. That's not that far out of the question.

McNeill reportedly began this season with an extension offer on the table. Coach Ruff told those close to him that he was holding out for more money for his assistants. Others were told Ruff's agent said Coach McNeill could do better.

Regardless, that offer is now a distant memory.

Make no mistake about it, Compher knows this decision will ultimately make or break him at East Carolina.

“I fully understand the gravity of my choice," said Compher. "That is something I gave a lot of thought to and did not take it lightly.”

Compher did, however, go to both Chancellor Steve Ballard and the Board of Trustees looking for support. He wanted those two entities to sign off on the idea and both reportedly did so.

“I want someone here who will embrace Pirate Nation in regards to our culture and values," said Compher when asked about what he would be looking for in a new coach. "I would like that person to be a fierce competitor at all times, whether on the field or in recruiting, and lead us to an American Athletic Conference championship. I also want someone who understands the value of education and will demand academic success from our team.”

I think I know a guy like that.

I think he should have gotten one more year.


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