Weekend Full of Ups and Downs

by Eric Gilmore

This early March weekend was loaded with ECU athletics. With the overlap of the winter and spring seasons, it provided a rare occurrence where ECU athletics literally consumed their fans for three days. From track news to football, ECU was busy making headlines.

The Clark-LeClair Stadium is a beautiful new facility. No true Pirate can underestimate how far ECU baseball has come in the last decade. The stadium's opening day was special; there was great weather, a great atmosphere and three great games.

It was touching that Keith LeClair and his family were even on hand. The respect that Keith LeClair has among the Pirate community is truly amazing. It was perfect that he was honored with the special plaque from Terry Holland. Undoubtedly his vision that jumpstarted this resurgence, it was fitting that his children threw out the first pitches.

Aside from the great game, there are still some kinks to be worked out in the new stadium. It is fairly obvious that some construction problems arose and  crews were hurried. 

The Jungle isn't the Jungle. The students were completely left out of the picture with the new design. The Jungle used to be a social environment for students that wanted to grill out, bring their dogs, drink beer and have a good time in the laid-back ECU atmosphere. There were traditions that built over time that just weren't honored with this new stadium.

Athletic officials paid attention only to voices of the gray haired people that want to sit in their lawn chairs and watch the game. That's all fine and dandy, but the Jungle was built on tailgating, beer and a free spirited attitude. If one wants to do that, they have to stand behind the fence and not watch the game.

The student's voices would be heard if the berm's slope was extended and the fence was brought to the top of the berm. The parking lot could still stay the same and everyone would still be happy.

The Pirates 77-71 loss to Tulane on Saturday night was another typical loss this season. At least, there will be no more typical losses this season.

As usual, ECU lollygagged through the first-half as Tulane caught fire. The Green Wave couldn't miss. How come in football every quarterback looks like a Heisman trophy winner and average basketball players look like Michael Jordan when they play ECU?

The Serbian Ivan Pjevcevic scored a career-high 24 points, including six three-pointers. He had nine all season coming into the game. Figures. Give the Pirates credit for coming back from 22 points down, but still they didn't pull it out. In my biased opinion, ECU is more talented than Tulane. Even so, the game was a microcosm of Bill Herrion's career here. Awesome guy, but just couldn't get over the hump.

Look for a press conference fairly soon regarding a new basketball coach. I'm not going to go into the speculation, but it is Terry Holland's policy to be very open with the media. It was less than two weeks before he announced Skip Holtz as the coach after the end of the season. Look for the same to take place with Holland.

LaShawn, why do you hurt me so? LaShawn Merritt signed with a four-year contract with Nike. I can't blame him. As a student, I would have signed that contract too. Even so, why didn't Merritt wait until after he won the 400 meter event at the NCAA Indoor Championships next weekend? Wouldn't it have significantly upped his stock? He would have run on the fastest track in the nation and possibly have set a new personal best.

LaShawn was only at ECU for a short time. He will continue classes and use the facilities, but the Pirate faithful won't have anyone to get behind anymore. Kudos to Bill Carson for landing the recruit and using his experience to train him, even if it only for a short while.

Football spring practice starts today. Skip Holtz, who held a press conference on Thursday, said that spring is an evaluation time while fall is preparation time. He said that the first six practices are critical to where players are going to be put on a depth chart.

Look for a slew of players to change positions. Holtz said that defensive and offensive lineman are interchangeable. Many of the defensive tackles might be moved to the other side of the ball to make up for the lack of depth.

Players such as Gary Freeman, Bobby Good, Hunter Wood, Sean Harmon and Shawn Levesque will be at a severe disadvantage missing spring practice. The player that might be at the most of a disadvantage is Patrick Pinkney. Tabbed by the fans to be the starter, he may not get a fair shot because he is still coming off shoulder surgery. Pinkney can't zip the ball right now over 30 yards. James Pinkney, who is not enrolled, will probably not see the field in 2005. Even if the elder Pinkney is deemed eligible, it seems that Holtz won't use him because he missed spring ball. Just a hunch.

Women's Basketball
The Lady Pirates ended a frustrating season losing to Memphis 76-67 in the first round of the C-USA Tournament. The women have now bowed out of three straight tournaments in the first round. The women finished 10-18 on the season, which is disappointing considering expectations.

The women are going to have to reload as five seniors depart. The most influential Lady Pirate was Jennifer Jackson. Supposed to have a breakout year, she never really got going. The Va. native still managed to finish her career fifth in career-scoring with 1,490 total points.

The Pirates did more losing than winning this weekend. With Terry Holland watching, it won't happen too many more times. I guarantee that in a couple more years, this early weekend in March will be much more enjoyable.

Eric Gilmore