ECU student experiences The Big House

Published 3:44 pm Monday, September 4, 2023

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For the Washington Daily News

Editor’s note: Sean Rocca just completed a summer internship covering sports for the Washington Daily News.

During my freshman year, my best friend Max and I followed ECU football very closely. This was when the 2023 schedule was released and we saw East Carolina would play Michigan in Ann Arbor.

We made plans then to go to the game to “kick off” our senior year. At the time we both did not expect to actually go through with it but as the date got closer and closer, we kept saying “Why not”. So Max, his brother Will, and I prepared for our journey up north.

Greenville, N.C. to Ann Arbor, M.I. is about a 12-hour drive through five states. We left Friday morning before the Saturday game. We hit the road at about 8 a.m. The mood was great at the start, the music was loud, and we were excited beyond belief. That wore off after about an hour and a half of driving.

Then tiredness kicked in and all of a sudden 12 hours felt daunting. We battled that feeling with a fresh pack of Oreos that quickly gave us a boost. We cruised through North Carolina and Virginia, stopping only once for food.

It isn’t a 12-hour road trip without some drama, which came in West Virginia. After paying a toll, the lanes merged and another car came very close to hitting us. After some honks (and some not so nice words), we kept going.

West Virginia is very mountainous, so we were driving in them most of the time while in that state. What we failed to realize was that in the mountains, there are very few places to stop. So, when we had to use the restroom, we did not have many options. Desperate, we pulled off the side of the road for a quick pit stop. Within the next five minutes, we finally saw a gas station that could easily have worked as a restroom.

Ohio was four straight hours of corn fields, small towns, and more corn fields which got old very fast. We finally reached Michigan and began cheering when we saw the sign, both from pure excitement and from being deliriously tired. We got to the hotel at about 10 p.m., ate pizza for dinner, then promptly fell asleep.

We were up early for the noon game. We fully expected ECU to get crushed but we didn’t care. The Big House is the largest stadium in college football and we wanted to experience that for ourselves.

We struggled to find parking at the game but we eventually found someone who was using their front lawn for parking. It was $30, cash only. We instantly panicked when we realized we had $12 in cash on us. We drove my car to Michigan and I always keep cash in my car in case of emergencies. Sure enough, I checked the center console and found a lifesaving 20-dollar bill. This saved us from having to park farther away for $60.

We walked to the stadium and saw a lot of yellow shirts. We quickly found it was maize out, and the Wolverine faithful took it seriously.

Every fan we encountered was incredibly nice. We had people wish us good luck, help us with directions, and have nice conversations as we walked in. We were very impressed with how welcoming Wolverine fans were although I’m betting, they would not have been so nice if we were wearing Ohio St jerseys.

When we walked in, we were like kids in a candy shop, just in awe of everything. The stadium was massive. During halftime, we decided to walk around to see everything. It took us 30 minutes to do a full lap around the stadium.

While at the game, we said about a million times “This is so cool” and “I can’t believe we are actually here.” We saw a few splashes of purple through the crowd, but it was well outnumbered by the maize.

The game did not go great for a Pirate fan but we didn’t care. We were just happy to be there and enjoy the atmosphere. During commercial breaks, the on-field entertainment was fantastic.

They had a dog named Victor come onto the field. His trainer would throw a frisbee about 30 yards and Victor would sprint and catch it. Every time he did, there was an uproar from the crowd, from both Pirate and Wolverine fans.

Despite the Pirate’s performance, the fanbase showed up. ECU had 6,000 fans in attendance which contributed to the 109,000 total attendance. In the fourth quarter, already losing badly, the Pirate fans continued the tradition of waving No Quarter flags. There were splashes of red flags all across the stadium, especially in the section with the Pirate faithful.

After the game, we enjoyed the downtown and nightlife scene. The food we ate was delicious, I had both the best IPA beer and French Dip sandwich that I have ever tasted. We had great fun but we knew the 12-hour drive home would not be as enjoybale.

After we got back, Max and I were very thankful that we went through with the plan we made almost four years ago. We went to see ECU but the game will quickly be forgotten. The memories and experiences we shared with each other will last a lifetime.