hard to believe, but this year will mark my 17th season as an ECU
Pirate. It seems like just yesterday I walked on campus in the
fall of 1989, and what a magical, life changing time that was.
Greenville was a very different place; there was no bypass of
Knightdale, Wilson, or even Farmville. There were no big chain
restaurants lining Greenville Blvd., only a few fast food ones.
Evans Street was a two-lane road. Bells Fork, where the new
Bostic-Sugg furniture store sits now, was "out-of-town" back
then. The list could go on, but I guess you catch my drift.
1989 marked Bill Lewis' first season as head coach at ECU. There
was a spirit of renewal in the air surrounding ECU football. I'll
never forget the pep rally in the stadium the night before the first
game. Budweiser sponsored it, and the ECU band came marching in
the stadium playing the Clydesdale Budweiser theme song. As I
said, it was a very different time. I still have the football
that was given away at that event. On one side it had the Bud
logo, on the other, it had the ECU logo and "The Spirit of the East"
imprinted on it. "The Spirit of the East" slogan was also on the
football poster and bumper stickers that year.
Last weekend I was reminded about what the "Spirit of the East" is all
about. I was watching TV with my wife Kristen and I came across
ECU-TV (channel 99- Cox Cable). They were playing the "We
Believe" tape, which recapped the entire 1991 season. It was Bill
Lewis' last season as head coach, and the greatest year in ECU and
maybe college football history.
My wife is one of many who were not a part of the program until the
turn of the century. Sure it doesn't seem that long ago to us
that have been here all along, but to her the last 5 seasons have been
mediocre at best and down right bad at worst. She has no frame of
reference that this program was once a source of great pride for the
university and our community. The only thing she knows is the
memorabilia on my walls that document our past great achievements.
I started to think this is the case with many other Pirate fans that
were not a part of the program during that magical season. Many
new fans do not appreciate how great Pirate football used to be.
New folks to our community only know ECU as a football program that
struggles to win any game, and not as one that used to dominate the
state and be a national power.
So we watched the 30-minute video together. It had been about 10
years since I last seen it. I was quickly reminded on how it was
one of the best season reviews I have ever seen. The narrator's
voice sounded like he is from NFL films, and the production quality was
awesome. In addition the story it told was truly amazing. It's a
story that became much bigger than college football. It talked
about when you put your heart into it, it can take you anywhere.
That place for us was a top 10 national ranking.
The reason I'm telling you this is because at the end of the video,
Kristen said to me, "Wow. so that is what is used to be like. Now
I understand. Now I know why people get so excited about this
team." She went on to say she hoped the coaches and players had
an opportunity to watch the video before the season begins. It
really got her "excited about ECU football". Now remember, this
was my wife talking. Imagine what kind of impact it could have on
As we sit on the verge of another season, I see our program at a
crossroads. We will either begin the process of turning our
program around and get back to the winning ways and national respect,
or we will drift into mediocrity and fall further and further off the
major college football landscape. My bet is placed on the turn
around. I think it has already begun with Terry and Skip leading
this Pirate Ship in a new direction.
This August of 2005, I'm reminded of the "Spirit of the East".
The same feeling of renewal that was present in 1989 seems to be back
this year. As we always say, "it ain't easy being a Pirate," but
I guess that's what makes it so special. Nothing is handed to us,
and we have to fight for everything we get. Over the last 17
seasons, the highs have been high, and the lows have been low, with not
much in-between. Hopefully this year marks the beginning of many
new "highs" for the old memorabilia wall.