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Old hand returns to home port

From Bonesville Staff Reports
All Rights Reserved.

This story updated 01.22.10 at 2:04 a.m.

East Carolina has turned the helm of its football ship over to former Pirate team captain Ruffin McNeill.

The school concluded its search for a replacement for departed coach Skip Holtz late Thursday afternoon by hiring McNeill, an ECU defensive back from 1976-79 and until recently the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

The Executive Committee of the ECU Board of Trustees approved McNeill's hiring and the general parameters of a contract in a teleconference Thursday evening and will consider contract specifics at a regular meeting next month.

Terry Holland, the school's athletics director, announced that McNeill will be introduced to the media at an 11:00 a.m. press conference on Friday.

“Coach McNeill's interview revealed his strong commitment to doing things the right way and his love of coaching young men to grow in every part of their lives. “ Holland said in a statement. “His excitement for what ECU football can become in the future was contagious and his deep and abiding appreciation for what East Carolina University has meant to him and his family was truly moving."

“There is no doubt about his ability to lead ECU football to new heights and his determination to guarantee that happens under his watch,” Holland added. “He intends to bring new and exciting offensive schemes to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, combined with an aggressive defense that will be designed to get the ball back in the offense’s hands.”

After the firing last month of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, McNeill served as interim head coach and guided the Red Raiders to a 43-31 victory over Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in its online edition that McNeill will bring former Texas Tech receivers coach Lincoln Riley to East Carolina as offensive coordinator. Highly regarded in coaching circles as a rising star in the profession, Riley served as interim offensive coordinator in the team's bowl win over Michigan State. The Red Raiders compiled 579 yards of total offense in the game.

A native of Lumberton, McNeill played for the Pirates under College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye.

During McNeill's playing career, East Carolina won the Southern Conference championship in 1976 and defeated Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl in 1978. He was co-captain of the Pirates during his junior and senior seasons.

McNeill began his coaching career as a defensive coach at Lumberton High School from 1980-84. He landed his first college position at Clemson, where he served as a graduate assistant working with linebackers during the 1985-86 seasons. The Tigers won the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1986.

Following one-year stints at Austin Peay State and North Alabama as linebackers coach, McNeill spent three seasons at Appalachian State, where the team won the Southern Conference title in 1991.

He returned to Greenville in 1992 to serve as defensive line coach on the staff of then-first year East Carolina coach Steve Logan.

McNeill then returned to Appalachian State, serving as defensive coordinator from 1993-96. The Mountaineers won the Southern Conference championship in 1995.

After working as a summer intern with the Miami Dolphins in 1996, McNeill was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at UNLV n 1997 and 1998.

McNeill joined Leach's staff at Texas Tech in 2000. He served in various capacities with the Red Raiders, coaching linebackers, defensive tackles and special teams before becoming defensive coordinator in 2007.


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McNeill received his undergraduate degree from East Carolina in 1980 and earned a master's degree in counseling from Clemson in 1987. He and his wife, Erlene, have two daughters, Olivia (19) and Renata (29). Olivia is a sophomore at Appalachian State.

McNeill becomes the 20th head coach in an East Carolina football history that dates back to 1932.

01/22/2010 02:05 AM


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