ECU success linked to dedicated fans
Posted July 14, 2011
Updated July 15, 2011
Greenville, N.C. — A football stadium expansion and a tougher basketball schedule haven’t put the East Carolina University athletics program on the map by themselves. The constant attention to detail and vision amidst the comedy of Athletic Director Terry Holland haven’t done it either.
The success of the Pirates, according to Holland, is a reciprocated byproduct of a dedicated fan base.
“I really give all the credit to everything that has been done here to the Pirate nation first,” Holland said. “Our fan base is what we built this program on, and they have responded to every challenge. The Pirate nation is what makes this place go.”
Of course, the stadium expansions and a winning product on the football field give the fan base and recruits alike a reason to stay loyal. The Pirates have been to five consecutive bowl games and have recently stretched their stadium to seat a few ship’s worth of Pirates.
“Facilities are a long-term issue. They are going to serve generations of coaches and student-athletes and students here at this university,” Holland said. “Facilities to me are always an important expenditure, and really the first thing on your list in being successful in the long term. We had to get the football program back in good shape financially, and of course, we have expanded the stadium to 50,000 seats now, and our Pirates have filled it up.”
Holland has made a handful of coaching changes in his ECU tenure. On the football side, he is on his third head coach since taking over – and that is an indication of success rather than failure. After Skip Holtz produced two Conference USA championships, he accepted a job at South Florida. Ruffin McNeill is now the head man of an ECU team that is one-for-one in bowl appearances under his watch.
“In this economy, we are continuing to sell more season tickets than the year before,” Holland said. “The season ticket base is the one you can bank on at the first of the year. We are in great shape because we have a tremendous fan base. Just an absolutely fantastic bunch of Pirates.”
On the basketball side, Holland has seen four coaches in the last seven years, but they are gaining traction. In 2007 they scheduled their first ever home game against an ACC opponent (Wake Forest). Last year they made their first post-season appearance since the 1992-93 season with a trip to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
“I don’t think there is any question that our team is on the rise,” Holland said. “The next key is going to be doing what we did in football, and that’s being able to play some games that have regional significance first and national significance after that.”
Holland does see the program growing on the national stage rather quickly, but doesn’t offer any finite timetable.
“In this business, like any business, you want to have a long-range plan that you’re generally sticking to,” Holland said. “Today I don’t think five-year plans are very accurate, but certainly, you need to have at least a three-year plan and have an idea of where you want to be in five years and even 10 years.”