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Notes, Quotes and Slants

Pirate Notebook No. 134
Friday, August 8, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Fans have vital role in game of league dominoes


Big responsibility rests with Pirates fans
BCS insiders enlisted on ECU's behalf
Time for C-USA to seize the initiative
West Virginia faces scheduling crisis
Big East move or not, Card want in on BCS
Beano & Muse: Same idea, different words
Slive pooh-poohs ACC raid speculation
Pedigreed Pirates weighs in on ECU future
'Ancient' blunder still stings Big East
Tranghese disputes Swofford claim
Big East stares at Big Decisions
C-USA Kickoff forum sidetracked by events
Tranghese repents, Swofford doesn't

ACC treads cautiously towards title game
New coalition confronts status quo
Cartel's bigwigs say no, but...
BCS powerbrokers eclipse other meetings
Summer travels feature realignment chatter
ACC move has dual implications for C-USA
League tremors low priority for Rimpf
Tulane CEO bucks BCS, demands reform
Realignment injects urgency into season
Army declares independence
Big East speeds UConn timetable

In East Carolina’s pursuit of inclusion in a conference with a direct tie to the Bowl Championship Series, several key roles have been clearly defined.

Chancellor William V. Muse obviously is the point man, and it is paramount that he present ECU’s potential to not only thrive in a BCS league, but also raise the prestige and increase the piggy bank of any conference with which it is aligned. The hiring of former Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer as a consultant shows that ECU's CEO has firm control of the helm of the Pirate ship.

First-year head coach John Thompson quickly finds himself in the hot seat and will be pressured to produce a winner this fall. Though wins and losses ultimately won’t be the make-or-break factor when conference invitations are sent, the importance of East Carolina staking its claim on the field can't be marginalized.

Perhaps even more important, though, is the sense of urgency with which Pirates fans must operate during these uncertain times, by making a major statement with Pirate Club donations and increasing sales at the ticket counter.

“They’ve energized me,” Thompson said in reference to the ECU faithful. “I knew it was good. I had no idea coming in the way this past spring would have gone. People have gone nuts. What a great thing.

"At all the Pirate Club meetings and all the functions that we’ve had, people have really been involved. It has energized our team, our staff.”

And to some degree, ECU's mass constituency appears to have been energized, too.

Pirate Club membership is up 14 percent from last year at 6,500 members. That number includes 688 members of the Student Pirate Club, of which 410 are first-time donors.

So far, the Pirate Club has received $3.1 million in pledges, a seven percent increase over last year. Approximately $2.65 million already has been collected, which is a nine percent improvement.

Ticket sales, however, are another story.

Less than a month before the home opener against West Virginia, ECU has sold roughly 14,500 season tickets. That’s a marginal increase over last year and is surprising in consideration of the lineup of opponents that will invade the Pirates’ home turf this year.

One would think a rare home-opening visit by long-time rival West Virginia and a historical first-time appearance by North Carolina would be enough to elevate sales to a record number.

The lack of frenzy about season tickets is disappointing from a fan base that often compares itself to Virginia Tech and desperately craves a position alongside the Hokies in the upper reaches of the national pecking order.

Sell-outs have traditionally been considered a big deal in Greenville, while eye-popping turnout are considered par-for-the-course in Blacksburg. To better illustrate the contrast, Hokies fans arrive in flocks for matchups against lowly Temple, whereas good seats always are available for an ECU fracas against its biggest Conference USA rival, Southern Miss.

Considering East Carolina is relying on its strong fan support to enhance its appeal to the Big East, it is crucial that Pirates fans make their collective presence felt in emphatic fashion in a season that is vital to the school’s athletics future.

Translated: Empty seats should be at a minimum, regardless of the opponent.

Pirates fans aren’t in a position to directly lobby for ECU’s inclusion in a BCS league. Nor can they have a direct effect on the outcome of a game.

But they can answer the challenge by filling Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on a weekly basis.

In the end, that could be the differentiating factor that elevates East Carolina’s profile when the next round of conference expansion commences.

Battle Flag has home

East Carolina’s new Battle Flag will fly high above Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium this season on a new flagpole located near the Pirates’ entrance to Bagwell Field.

Prominent Pirate Club members Mark Hatcher and Mike Yorke led a private fund-raising campaign that will purchase the flagpole, which will be accompanied by an edifice that includes a ship and cannon at the base.

The idea is that the flag will be raised ceremoniously prior to each game, and the Pirates will touch the cannon as they sprint onto the playing surface, much like Clemson players traditionally touch Howard’s Rock.

Yorke hopes the pre-game ritual will add to East Carolina’s gridiron tradition.

“What I see we are doing is returning the Jolly Roger tradition,” Yorke said. “Returning this is a huge victory for ECU.”

Once Hatcher and Yorke received the go-ahead from the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Muse, the rest was easy. Yorke solicited the idea on an unofficial but popular ECU Internet message board – – and received over 75 responses.

All totaled, the duo received more than the projected goal, which was somewhere between $5-6 thousand. Approximately 60 contributors took part in the project, which took less than a month to complete. The bulk of the cash was donated in a brief two-week span.

Former Pirates earn NCHSAA honor

Two former Pirates are among the nine who will be enshrined in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. Stuart Tripp (’44) and Pat Harrell (’61) will be inducted November 8.

Tripp is a legend in Eastern North Carolina, having built Ayden into an athletics powerhouse. From 1946-62, Tripp coached football, basketball, and baseball at Ayden, compiling impressive records in all three sports.

Tripp served a one-year stint at Tarboro then returned to Ayden to finish his career, coaching basketball from 1965-68, compiling a 72-4 record during that span. Overall, Tripp’s teams collected seven conference titles in football, six in baseball, and 12 in basketball.

He also won two state titles on the hardwood.

Harrell left his mark primarily in administration. He served as superintendent of the Perquimans County Schools from 1976-88, and held the same position in Dare County from 1988-93.

Throughout his career, Harrell remained heavily involved in high school athletics and served two terms as the NCHSAA president (1988-90).

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02/23/2007 01:51:32 AM


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