Pirates will play anyone, anywhere

Published 3:18 pm Friday, August 8, 2008

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
Pirates fan or not, you’ve got to admire East Carolina coach Skip Holtz’s attitude.
From the time he stepped onto the Greenville campus four years ago, he’s had one thing on his mind — to make ECU a national powerhouse.
Back then, folks scoffed at the idea. Is this guy a joke?
But three years and two bowl appearances into the Skip Holtz regime, no one’s laughing now.
Holtz inherited a football team that was 3-20 in two years under former coach John Thompson and led them to five wins in 2005. The next year, ECU made its first bowl appearance in five years as they went 7-6 and earned a berth in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Then last season, Holtz got everyone’s attention by leading the Pirates to an 8-5 mark and a 38-35 victory over Boise State in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl.
It’s taken Holtz no time at all to turn around the shameful program that he took over.
To me, the most impressive part of the turn around is that Holtz hasn’t shied away from anyone in doing so.
In his three years at the helm, ECU has already squared off against ACC teams North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech. And save for Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, his Pirates have scored at least one victory against them all.
The Pirates also have lined up against Big East powerhouse West Virginia each season as well, and though they’ve yet to come up victorious, they will try to do so again this season.
From day one, when ECU beat Duke in Holtz’s first game for the school’s first win in five years over a non-conference Division-I team, Holtz has been on a mission to make ECU football a premier program.
That mission hopes to take another step in 2008.
This season, the Pirates will be one of only three schools to take on four non-conference BCS opponents as they take on Virginia Tech, West Virginia, N.C. State and Virginia. The other two schools are Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky.
The Pirates will look to build on their win over No. 22 Boise State in the 2007 Hawai’i Bowl when they take on the Hokies Aug. 30 in the season opener in Charlotte.