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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, January 26, 2010

By Brian Bailey

McNeill era off and running at ECU

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Skip Holtz developed a certain swagger with his success at East Carolina that he carried to his new job in Tampa.

Ruffin McNeill comes to town with a different kind of swagger. McNeill is now home. He beamed with pride as he dished out fist pumps to the huge crowd at his first news conference as the Pirates' head coach.

I didn’t know what to expect. I do know that the day before many at East Carolina thought Steve Shankweiler was going to be introduced in that press and fan gathering. Coach Shank had several “congratulatory” text messages and calls during the day that didn’t quite pan out.

McNeill was the final candidate to interview and several close to the hiring process said he was outstanding in that interview.

The decision was made early last Thursday afternoon. Ruffin McNeill was the pick to replace Skip Holtz at ECU.

At the introductory press conference, McNeill was a huge hit with stories he told the crowd. They especially liked the one about his former coach Pat Dye’s shoe size.

McNeill was emotional at time. He was thrilled that several of his former teammates were in attendance.

He said that football coaches don’t cry, but that their eyeballs sweat. There was a lot of that going on as well.

He was emotional for sure, a trait that should carry well in this East Carolina program.

"I cannot begin to repeat how honored I am to be your next coach,” McNeill said. “This is my destination job. Let's get that out front right now and make sure that's very clear. This is not a stepping-stone hop for Ruff. This is where I want to be until you all take me away from here. You'll have to drag me away.

"I plan on being here a long time. We plan on being here a long time. I plan on being around you for a long time. I am so happy to be back into Pirate Nation and to be a part of the family.”

McNeill spent the past ten years at Texas Tech. Those years will certainly help in recruiting one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting grounds. North Carolina, though, will always be the main focus.

"My home and room at my parents' house is in North Carolina," he said. "I'm from North Carolina. This will always be our primary recruiting area. That's an exciting part for me. I know how to get around this area in a car, unlike Texas where I needed a plane to hop back and forth.

"Our primary area will be the same ones we've hit for years around here. North Carolina will be the most central and we'll head up north to the Virginia and Washington, DC, areas. We'll also spread south to South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.”

Texas, though, is still very much a possibility in recruiting.

"I know from my relationships I've built with guys in Texas that there will be some calls," McNeill said. "I think our relationships are great. They'll call and there may be a kid over there who wants to come play for the Pirate Nation. We'll look at him, especially if he's a big and fast one."

There is an offer on the table for Steve Shankweiler to stay on as assistant head coach with McNeill. Shankweiler underwent hip replacement surgery on Friday and was in good spirits when I visited him on Saturday morning.

Shank was disappointed, but not bitter. I truly believe that Steve Shankweiler loves this program so much that he only wants what’s best for the Pirates. He is a class act and a great coach who’s done wonders in his three stints at ECU.

Word is Shank will most likely join Coach Holtz at South Florida in the near future.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

Brian Bailey Archives

01/26/2010 01:11 AM


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