mad coach mo

Coach Scottie Montgomery on the sidelines of a game.

Back-to-back seasons with losing records is not acceptable for a team that has been known to win games. The East Carolina University football fans need to come to terms with how the transition from Ruffin McNeill to current head coach Scottie Montgomery has gone a lot more sour than expected.

Montgomery is still stuck in the shadow of McNeills’ success for a few reasons that most fans seem to skip over when comparing the two. The 2017-18 schedule was set and based on the success of McNeill’s football team when he coached back in 2013, coming off of an outstanding 10-3 season concluding with a bowl victory in a 37-20 over the Ohio Bobcats.

After McNeill’s firing at the end of the 2015 season, most were not happy about Athletic Director Jeff Compher’s decision to part ways. When ECU was told that Montgomery would be the new head coach coming from Duke University, the fans greeted the new head coach with a bit of resentment, but confident his Duke and NFL experience with the Pittsburgh Steelers would benefit their program.

McNeil was a staple in the Pirates football program and Greenville community for more than five years. He hosted football camps for all young athletes in the Greenville community. One of his more popular accolades came from his “Pirate’s ABCs” book he wrote for kids promoting good decisions. After playing and coaching at ECU, the city and fans became attached to his presence.

For the players, they also grew attached to McNeil; he was the energetic coach who led the team to winning seasons and gave players confidence moving from week to week. Looking at the 2016, 2017 and possible 2018 roster, the veterans on the teams joined the program in ties with their old head coach.

There are players that voiced their opinion on which coach they favored, showing which coach they were dedicated to. But as long as you focus on the past, you cannot focus on the horizon or a better future for the team. The fans, city, students and players want to be proud of their home team but losing records are not up to par with McNeills’.

Pirate nation has been at an uproar for change on social media and around campus. The first change was at the defensive coordinator position, with the reassigning of Kenwick Thompson.

The order in how I believe the management situation should be handled starts with the athletic director, who is at the head of all sports at ECU. After the director, the coaching staff should be held accountable. If things do not get better, another role in the coaching staff will need changing.

Maybe, just maybe, Compher made the wrong decision to let go of McNeil, but in doing so he failed to understand that the team would take a loss in the chemistry area. By introducing Montgomery as the new head coach, it's possible that some of the players were still seeing McNeil’s vision and not the new future.

Thanks to Compher and the NCAA, a daunting schedule was composed for Pirates, in non conference. So far, ECU has had to face the subdivision national champions James Madison University, as well as Big 12 powerhouse West Virginia University. The Pirates will also face No. 16 Virginia Tech, before American Athletic Conference play even starts.

Montgomery has been asked to lead a team to the bowl season that already had their leader taken from them in 2016. For Montgomery his task must be to reunite the team and make sure all of his athletes are playing for the same goal. The second year head coach may have not asked for the resentment that he would receive, but he did take on the responsibility to coach, mentor and lead the Pirate football program to a season of wins.

In the understanding of these notions it is apparent it will take time for the football program to return to its winning fashion. Though in 2020 the non conference schedule will still be based off of the past seasons of McNeill, the athletes and recruits will solely be at ECU for the way Montgomery recruited them. The questions still remain whether the fans can wait three years for a winning season and if Montgomery can have a successful career coaching at ECU.

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