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Montgomery makes plea; “the product will get better”

GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s last few home games have seen attendance numbers plummet to lows not seen since the aftermath of the John Thompson years.

Nearly 44,000 came to watch the Pirates take on Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia Tech, although a small fraction remained to see the clock run out on a 64-17 defeat. That number dropped almost 10,000 for when ECU got shellacked by American Athletic Conference frontrunner South Florida. Then, just north of 31,000 of the Pirate faithful made the trek to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the Temple game two weeks ago.

It’s hard to put fans in seats when a team is losing on the consistent basis East Carolina is. Head coach Scottie Montgomery knows that. He made his plea to the fan base during his press conference on Monday.

“This is my appeal. I am asking everybody, this homecoming weekend, to come out and support the Pirates,” he said. “Come out and support the university. Come out and serve our colors: purple and gold. Some of our seniors, this is their last opportunity at homecoming and we really want to make it a fantastic experience for them.

“I want Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and Bagwell Field to be jumping for this homecoming weekend.”

Montgomery also knows he and his staff is trying to build something in Greenville. He was left with few players — especially on the defensive side — that would be his upperclassmen this year. He’s said time and again that, ideally, he’d be playing juniors and seniors each weekend.

But those young, hungry players are beating out the veterans. Wide receiver is the most experience-laden group on the team. True freshman Darius Pinnix and sophomore Hussein Howe have carried the ground offense in recent weeks. True freshman center John Spellacy looks to return from injury and take back the starting role this weekend.

Defensively, ECU has sophomores named as first-team starters at the defensive end positions. Redshirt freshman Aaron Ramseur is tabbed to start at inside linebacker. There are four underclassmen atop the depth chart in the secondary.

It’s a good sign for what’s to come, but not a good recipe for success today. At the end of the day, college athletics is very much a “what have you done for me lately” business.

Frustration from fans is understandable. ECU opened the season with a loss to FCS foe James Madison. The Pirates then got hammered by West Virginia and Virginia Tech. Those are two teams they competed with not too long ago. ECU hasn’t been competitive in the AAC these past two seasons, either.

Winning can cure a lot of problems. Sometimes it’s about more than wins and losses, though. ECU fans have grown accustomed to competing with regional “Power 5” opponents. They remember that the previous coaching staff, according to athletic director Jeff Compher, was dismissed for not competing for conference championships.

It’s not a stretch to say the frustrations stem from not simply losing, but losing is blowout fashion week after week.

Montgomery inherited many of the problems plaguing the program now. He’s trying to control what he can. This appeal to the fans is his attempt to reward those that have put four or five years of work into the program.

“I will say that I know true Pirate fans are true Pirate fans,” he said. “They’ll come out and support us. I understand how hard it is to sometimes watch a product and want it to be the way you want it to be.

“I can guarantee these guys in the locker room are giving every single thing that they have. We’re working as hard as we possibly can and the product will get better.”