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Pirate Notebook No. 361
Monday, October 20, 2008

Denny O'Brien

Tangible tributes to legends overdue

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

Harris BCS Poll

For the third year in a row, Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. As a service to readers of this site, O'Brien's ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the season.

A senior columnist for Bonesville and The Pirates' Chest Magazine, O'Brien was nominated to the Harris Poll panel by Conference USA. View a list of the Harris Poll panel members on this week's national polls page.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

(Ballot cast 10.19.08)

  1. Texas
  2. Alabama
  3. Penn State
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. Texas Tech
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Southern Cal
  8. Georgia
  9. Florida
10. Ohio State
11. Boise State
12. Louisiana State
13. Utah
14. Pittsburgh
15. Texas Christian
16. South Florida
17. Tulsa
18. Ball State
19. Brigham Young
20. Missouri
21. Minnesota
22. Kansas
23. Georgia Tech
24. Florida State
25. Northwestern

This Week's Harris, AP and USA Today Polls

This Week's Composite BCS Standings

Other Recent Items

O'Brien: Tangible tributes to legends overdue
O'Brien: Harris Poll ballot
BVL: Harris, AP and Coaches Polls
BVL: BCS Standings
• Game Center: East Carolina vs. Memphis
• Box Score / Statistics
• BVL Audio: Replay Skip Holtz post-game
• Talk FM Audio: Replay Post-game Call-in Show
• O'Brien: Kass adds life to offense
• Myatt: Good things come to Kass, Pirates
• Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
• C-USA Standings, Scores, Schedule
• ECU Schedule, Links
Myatt: Holtz looking to bullpen for Kass
Bailey: Listing Pirate ship undergoing fixes
BVL Audio: Skip Holtz weekly presser
O'Brien: Humbled Pirates out of mulligans

The timing couldn't be better for East Carolina to proceed with plans to expand Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Though the Pirates' game against rival Memphis didn't draw a capacity crowd – much of which can be attributed to rare student no-shows – it at least commanded a near sellout despite an extended forecast that almost guaranteed sloppy weather.

Given East Carolina's history for sparse crowds when Conference USA opponents visit Greenville, that's a sign of tremendous progress. And when that follows a game against Houston that drew the fourth largest crowd in stadium history, it's pretty clear that more seats must be added to ECU's football home.

The majority of those new seats will be added adjacent to the end zone on the scoreboard side of Bagwell Field. That will provide an intimidating backdrop for opponents, who will find few friends in the enclosed sections when they are backed up against them.

A few more seats could reside in the luxury suites that will accompany the much-needed arrival of a new press box. You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger eyesore than the doublewide that houses the media high above the south side of the stadium.

But as ECU officials move forward with plans for the upgrades, they should do so without forgetting the men who laid the foundation. This – not the frills of big-time football – is where East Carolina is the farthest behind.

Long before N.C. State added the Vaughn Towers and enclosed both end zones, visible tributes existed in Carter-Finley Stadium for its football greats. Roman Gabriel, Jim Ritcher, Torry Holt, and Philip Rivers all have signage, as do the many memorable bowls that marked some of the program's greatest accomplishments.

Ditto for North Carolina. Even when Kenan Stadium was a shell of its current structure, the likes of "Choo Choo" Justice and Lawrence Taylor had a permanent place between the pines in Chapel Hill.

Even in some of C-USA's most humble venues, you'll find bowl banners and memorials to program greats. Robertson Stadium in Houston and The Rock at Southern Miss have never been mistaken for palaces, but that hasn't stopped those programs from visibly boasting their accomplishments at their home venues.

This is where East Carolina doesn't get it. Never has. And unfortunately no one within the constituency has spoken loud enough or donated the monetary resources to be used specifically for that.

Perhaps some day somebody will. That way when Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard makes future appearances at ECU home games, he can see his name and number attached permanently to the upper deck.

Not that he's asking for it. Given Garrard's humility, the thought probably has never even crossed his mind. He'd probably deem such an honor unnecessary.

But it is absolutely necessary considering Garrard's significance to the program. He is the flagship player of the flagship position at East Carolina. As much as anybody, he is the face of ECU football.

How someone still runs around each Saturday wearing a purple No. 9 is a complete oversight of Garrard's historical importance. If his record-breaking career wasn't worthy of a jersey retirement – which it was – his work as an ambassador for his alma mater should easily put him over the top.

Garrard isn't the only one, either. Jeff Blake and Robert Jones were the offensive and defensive MVP's during that memorable 11-1 run that finished with a Peach Bowl victory and No. 9 national ranking.

Yet all they get is ten seconds of cheerleading each game on the Jumbotron. Neither they nor their inspirational team have visible permanence in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, and 17 years is plenty of time to brainstorm and construct a worthy tribute.

The list goes on. East Carolina has more than its share of football heroes, many of whom sacrificed their bodies to establish a football tradition and now generously open their wallets to help sustain it.

ECU is moving in the right direction by expanding its stadium. More seats and a cosmetic makeover are necessary for the Pirates to maximize their potential in the future.

But in the process, East Carolina should not forget its past. It's past time for tributes to appear in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, much like they do at the homes of regional and conference rivals, as well as in the venues of national powers.

ECU would be wise to include its proud history as a part of its future. If it doesn't, the case can be made that East Carolina isn't really moving forward.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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10/20/2008 02:43:11 AM

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