Skipped out of town

For those who know me, I am and always will be an East Carolina University Pirate. It was my first college, my first choice school and the first place I moved to when I left home for the first time. A lot of firsts. That place was my second home and I miss it everyday. The people, the energy, the sports and their fans.

I had gone to an all-girls high school, so football and other sporting events were not really a big deal whole in high school because we did not have them. We had to go to other schools for high school football games and the like. For a girl obsessed with sports and especially football, it is easy to say my true obsession started in college–and I chose a college with a huge base for following football and other team sports. A whole new world was ahead of me, and I landed in Greenville, NC.

The pirates, needless to say, were not always a great team. For me, my freshman year at East Carolina was more getting used to the whole team support and being a fan of your own school then having big wins. But it got me into my love of sports. The face painting, the body painting, the signs, the town dedicating every business to PIRATES GAME DAY, Paint it Purple Fridays, getting decked out in all purple and gold gear and of course the massive tailgating. I had never seen anything like it, and still have not to this day. Maybe I am a little biased, but what true fan wouldn’t be?

A true fan is any fan of the ECU Pirates. The Pirates have always been known to media and online sites as one of the best fan groups around. And even though they were not always a team that made headlines or got bids to bowl games, the fans never stopped coming. They never stopped cheering, and the players never stopped committing to this school in Carolina that once was only known for its partying. That all was about to change.

The ECU football team has always had good players. Like most good teams, they needed even better leadership to have them work together–a good example of one of the most memorable sports teams in America is the US hockey team in 1980. Made up of amateur but good players, they won a huge infamous victory at the Olympics that year under the leadership of Herb Brooks. A leader-a coach-is sometimes all a team needs to stay afloat and not only survive, but also succeed–conquer and defeat.

A plethora of some pretty damn good players have come out of East Carolina. The most noteworthy currently is the Tennessee Titan’s running back, Chris Johnson. He is the 6th running back in NFL history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season. He started as a Pirate in 2004 and I remember him returning many kickoffs and adding many yards for our team. Davon Drew was drafted as a tight end for the Baltimore Ravens. Still at the school this past season are Dwayne Harris, the wide receiver who made top ten plays of the week on Sportscenter (how often does East Carolina get recognized on Sportscenter? Not often!). And of course Patrick Pinkney, the quarterback who led the team to four consecutive winning seasons (and also known for being a player with more eligibility in NCAA football than anyone else). There are also many other players on the team who are exceptional as well…

…But most importantly was the head coach. Skip Holtz came to Greenville the same year I did. “In Skip we trust” was a common locution seen and heard and understood only on the eastern shore of North Carolina. Our school had high hopes with this new head coach and he did not let us down–the first season under his regime, the Pirates won two more games in one season then they had during the career of previous head coach, John Thompson. Holtz’s era was a 38-27 record in five seasons at East Carolina, and he led the Pirates to consecutive winning seasons and to many bowl games, including the PapaJohns.com bowl, the Hawaii bowl, and for two years in a row, the Liberty Bowl. The team also beat Virgina Tech and WVU on national televsion during his reign as head coach. Not bad for a team that was on a losing streak for a few years before Skip came to town.

However, this icon for the Pirates last week deserted his ship and sailed to a new team; the University of South Florida Bulls. Ironically, this team is also the team that defeated the Pirates in their first bowl game under Holtz in 2006 at the PapaJohns.com Bowl. For those of you who don’t remember the controversy of USF, the former head coach Jim Leavitt was fired earlier in January because he was accused of striking a player during half time in a November game against Louisville; then, during the investigation it was found out he was interfering and telling witnesses to change their stories. He was fired January 8, 2010, and Skip Holtz left the Pirates less than a week later.

What does this mean for the East Carolina Pirates? As of now, there has been no word on who the 20th coach for this budding football franchise will be. Will they be anything like Skip? This may have been a stab in the back for many Pirates everywhere, but to look on the positive–our team can only continue to go up. And I think that the sports department down there in Greenville has seen the positive that a winning football team can bring to a school and town and will do everything they can to continue on with the foundation that good ol’ Skip left behind.

And when that happens, and when the Pirates play USF next, I want to hear the PURPLE! GOLD! chants all the way up here in Maryland. Skip, you will be missed.

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