McNeill tabbed ECU’s new football coach|Will be introduced to media, fans today

Published 6:19 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

By Staff
ECU Sports Information
GREENVILLE — Former Pirate defensive back and assistant coach Ruffin McNeill is back home.
McNeill, who starred as a four-year letterman in the late 1970s and most recently served on the Texas Tech staff for the last 10 seasons, has been appointed head football coach at East Carolina University according to an announcement from director of athletics Terry Holland.
With his hiring, McNeill becomes ECU's 20th head football coach in the school's history and he will be introduced to the media at an 11 a.m. press conference today.
The Executive Committee of the ECU Board of Trustees, acting for the full board, approved the appointment of McNeill and the outline of his contract in a conference call meeting Thursday evening. The board will consider McNeill’s contract at a regular meeting next month.
“Coach McNeill's interview revealed his strong commitment to doing things the right way and his love of coaching young men to grow in every part of their lives,” Holland said. “His excitement for what ECU Football can become in the future was contagious and his deep and abiding appreciation for what East Carolina University has meant to him and his family was truly moving.
“There is no doubt about his ability to lead ECU Football to new heights and his determination to guarantee that happens under his watch,” Holland added.  “He intends to bring new and exciting offensive schemes to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, combined with an aggressive defense that will be designed to get the ball back in the offense’s hands.”
McNeill concluded his 24th overall season at the collegiate level as Texas Tech's interim head coach by rallying the No. 21 Red Raiders to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 after the dismissal of Mike Leach. In addition to helping the program complete the year with nine triumphs, McNeill's steady hand was responsible for Texas Tech's first season-ending three-game winning streak since 1995.
The 2009 campaign marked his 10th season as a member of Leach’s staff and second full year as the defensive coordinator. He served the final nine games of 2007 in that role on an interim basis, before taking over officially in 2008. McNeill, who also coached the linebackers, was regarded as one of the most versatile coaches on the staff and also one of the most beloved by the Red Raider football team.
Seen as a father figure by those within the program, McNeill was credited with promoting a family-type atmosphere, while at the same time providing disciplined instruction on the field.
His stamp on the Red Raider defense was apparent in 2008 as the unit helped lead Texas Tech to one of the most memorable seasons in school history. The defense ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference in total defense, fourth in scoring defense and third in pass defense. The rush defense improved from the previous season by 37 yards per game.
The defense totaled 34 sacks on the season to rank among the Big 12’s top three. Tech’s push up the middle not only aided in the unit’s ability to stop the run, but also contributed to the disruption of the some of the conference’s more potent offenses. Colby Whitlock’s safety against Texas early in the first half set the tone for the rest of the game as Tech handed the No. 1 Longhorns a 39-33 defeat. Other players made similar plays throughout the season, enabling the unit to get Tech’s high-powered offense back onto the field for its record-setting scoring season.
A four-year letterwinner at East Carolina from 1976-80, McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and was the team captain for two seasons. He helped lead ECU to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in 1978 – the school's first in what is recognized as the modern era. He graduated from East Carolina in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in education and earned a master’s degree in secondary counseling from Clemson in 1987.
McNeill, 51, and his wife, Erlene, have two daughters, Olivia (19) and Renata (29). Olivia is a sophomore at Appalachian State.
McNeill directly succeeds Skip Holtz, who accepted the top football coaching position at South Florida Jan. 14.