BY MICHAEL LEESE
This week’s stop on my journey of college football campuses found me in Greenville, North Carolina, the home of the East Carolina Pirates from Conference USA. This is a school that loves their football program. The fan base has high hopes for a Conference USA Championship and a Liberty Bowl berth this season.
A PIRATE’S HISTORY……….East Carolina began playing organized football in the fall of 1932. The first football
coach in school history was Kenneth Beatty. They played under the nickname Teachers because the school was a teacher training school. The team played five games, with two in Greenville. They however did not score a point the whole season, while opponents scored a combined 187 points. The 1933 season started the same way the 1932 season — the Teachers lost the first four game without scoring a point. On November 11, 1933, East Carolina not only got its first points, but it got its first victory ever. It came against Campbell, and the final score was 6-0. The 1933 team lost their final game against Appalachian State 14–0, but a love affair had begun. The following year, the Men’s Athletic Association wanted a nickname that would inspire, “more spirit and enthusiasm.” The name was changed from the Teachers to the Pirates.
The Pirates play their home games at Bagwell Field at Dowdy–Ficklen Stadium. Dr. Leo Jenkins, then President of East Carolina University, announced plans to build a new stadium for the Pirates on in October 1961. He set a goal of raising $200,000, and after a year, Dr. Jenkins had raised $283,387. The James Skinner Ficklen Memorial Stadium was dedicated on Sept. 21, 1961, replacing College Stadium, where the team played from 1949 to 1962. The stadium has undergone many upgrades and expansions over the years. A new scoreboard was introduced in 1999 and a 12-foot, three-ton sculpture of the Pirate was unveiled. James Ficklen, a Greenville tobacconist, established the Ficklen Foundation, which is a financial-aid foundation. Ronald and Mary Ellen Dowdy, a real estate developer in Orlando, Florida, donated a million dollars to the school. For his donation, Ficklen Stadium changed names to the current Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 1994. Al and Debbie Bagwell of Lake Gaston, Virginia, made a large gift to the school, and the field was named Bagwell Field in their honor in 1995.
TRADITION…….The fight song, known as E.C. Victory, is played after every touchdown or big play. The football players sing the alma mater with the students after every home game. Before the players enter the field, the poem The Ghost on The Wind plays. After the poem, the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze plays while the players run onto the field. Since 2007, the song Purple and Gold by Udon Cheek has played periodically throughout the game.
MASCOTS – The Pirate is the official mascot of the university. It was formally known as PeeDee the Pirate, from its inception in 1983 until December 1985, when PeeDee was dropped from the name by Chancellor Howell. The University once again adopted the name PeeDee the Pirate after the unveiling of an updated look for the PeeDee during the 2008 homecoming game against Marshall. The first official mascot was Buc, a Great Dane. He was the mascot from 1958, until his death in 1961. Other mascots included Pete, a dog who was a mascot in the 1970’s and a live wildcat from 1930–1931, before football was an official sport.
GAME DAY TRADITIONS– Many game weekend traditions occur each home football game. Each Friday is either Purple and Gold Day, or Paint it Purple Friday. Supporters of the university are encouraged to wear the colors and insignia of the university the day before the game. Better than walking the plank — The Pirate Walk takes place before every home game. During the Pirate Walk, football players walk from Clark-LeClair Stadium (baseball) to the football stadium, and fans line up to support to the team. A cannon is fired to hype up the crowd and intimidate opponents when the players run on field, and after every ECU score. At the start of the game, a Jolly Roger flag featuring a skull and cross bones wearing ECU colors is raised. During the
intermission between the third and fourth quarter a new flag is raised. The normal Jolly Roger flag with a black background is lowered and replaced with a No Quarter flag. The No Quarter flag is a Jolly Roger with a burgundy background, symbolizing soaked blood and that the Pirates will show no mercy to their opponents. Below the Jolly Roger are the words “No Quarter.”
IN SEARCH OF A THIRD TITLE……The Pirates have won two Conference USA Championships. In 2008, East Carolina defeated Tulsa 27-24 to capture the 2008 Conference USA championship, their first conference title in 32 years. In 2009, the Pirates defeated Houston 38-32, winning their second straight Conference USA title.
THE GAME…….Quarterback Shane Carder found Justin Hardy for a one-yard scoring toss on the opening possession, starting launching the Pirates to a 31-0 halftime lead. The second half was more of the same, as the Pirates sailed to a 55-14 win. Carder finished the day throwing for 307 yards and three scores, and adding a rushing touchdown. Hardy ended the day catching 10 balls for a 126 yards, with one TD. He is now second in career touchdown receptions at ECU, just one shy of the record held by Lance Lewis.