Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams

Around Greenville and beyond, the Pirate Nation has shown its pride this week in a football team that's already made two ranked opponents walk the plank.

After victories against Virginia Tech and West Virginia, East Carolina University's football team hopped up to No. 14 in the Associated Press' weekly football poll. Enthusiasm is building as the Pirates travel to New Orleans to play Tulane today.

"Any time you have a winner, this always brings positive attention to your city," Greenville Mayor Pat Dunn said. "Our football team certainly has done that.

"When you get underestimated, and you achieve more than people think you can, then people pay attention. I certainly think we have a great coach with Skip Holtz and a great team. It's good for the university, and it's good for our city."

The team's success brings the national spotlight to the community, as well.

"This is better exposure than what we could buy from paid advertising," said Debbie Vargas, executive director of the Greenville-Pitt County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It really helps put Greenville, North Carolina, on the map,"

Around Greenville, purple and gold banners fly in front of local businesses that are part of the Pirate Club's Pirates Supporting Pirates initiative. And electronic signs spell out support for the team; spotted at the Bell's Fork Walgreens: "ARRGH. Beat Tulane."

"The business community is super proud of our ECU Pirates - always have been and always will be," said Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce President Susanne Sartelle. "And it sure is fun when we're winning! This community is Pirate Family."

Excitement is spilling over from the gridiron to the entire community.

"I definitely think the community has had a renewed sense of energy lately," Vargas said.

"There's a buzz in the air. People just seem like they are rejuvenated and want to be out around people."

This week, the Pirate faithful have been decked out in purple and gold. Skull-and-crossbones flags - usually most apparent on game day - have fluttered from car windows around town.

"We have noticed a dramatic increase in the sale of car flags and car magnets," said Don Edwards, owner of university-merchandiser UBE. "They want to say ‘East Carolina' loud and clear and display it for all to see. And sales of house flags have been really big this year."

On campus, students are showing their true colors, as well.

"Students are wearing more purple and gold, which means less Carolina Blue and State Red is being seen," said Student Pirate Club President D.J. Fussell.

And the buzz on campus is all about the Pirates.

"In the past, a football game would come and the excitement of it would pass by the end of the week, but not anymore," Fussell said. "The absolute thrill around campus is something that has not been seen here in my four years."

He noted that students - and even professors - have been discussing the big wins against Virginia Tech and West Virginia before classes and during breaks.

But Greenville residents aren't the only people cheering for the Pirates.

"One of the things we've noticed is the support is from all over everywhere," Edwards said. "We have seen more people in our store than ever before. It is bringing out a whole new set of fans. Everybody loves a winner. We have never seen the likes of this - since the Peach Bowl (victory in 1992).

"And people from throughout the nation are supporting East Carolina. When we look at our Internet sales, we are still getting business from throughout the state - but we also have orders from Florida, from Virginia, from the Northeast.

"Our niece lives in New York and she and her friends have adopted the Pirates. They were watching the game on ESPN and, even though her friends don't have any connection to ECU, they have decided they are Pirate fans."

One of the most famous new members of the Pirate Nation is talk show host Regis Philbin, who voiced his support for East Carolina during the Thursday broadcast of "Live with Regis and Kelly."

Philbin, a vocal Notre Dame booster, said that he's a game behind the other panelists participating in Yahoo.com's "College Football Pick'em."

"I didn't pick East Carolina, and I'm never going to do that again," Philbin said on Thursday's live broadcast. "East Carolina is the coming team in college football ... coached by Skip Holtz, Lou Holtz' son, who has been coaching for a long time and is finally coming into his own. And this is the team to watch.

"Remember what I am telling you. East Carolina may go unbeaten this year. I can't go on, 'cause I signed with Yahoo."

For this week's picks, Philbin selected East Carolina to beat Tulane - but so did the other experts on the Yahoo panel.

Sartelle said the team's success is inspiring.

"I'm a firm believer that good things don't just happen," she said. "Good people make them happen. We are blessed with dynamic coaches and athletic leaders who not only want to win but who genuinely care about the players and their success on and off the field. And these young men team members are motivated to work hard which is bringing great results. We are indeed proud of them and grateful for their commitment."

Fussell said he thinks this football season will be a memorable one for ECU students and fans.

"To say the least, this is going to be a season to remember," Fussell said. "We believe!"

Comments (1)

Russel Ray, San Diego Business & Marketing Consultant & Photographer
Russel Ray - San Diego State University, CA

Many decades ago I got involved in some research to try to prove that enrolled in universities with winning sports teams, especially football and basketball, were at least somewhat correlated. I left before the resarch was done, but preliminary results showed that it was. Don't be surprised if enrollment or applications increase there at East Carolina. Go Pirates!

Sep 19, 2008 05:58 PM