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Pirates bus to Florida

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East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery and other coaches talk on the sideline during the Pirates' win against North Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 8, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

East Carolina’s football team bused from Greenville to Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday and will remain there until its next game.

The Pirates’ game Saturday at Virginia Tech was canceled Tuesday because of Hurricane Florence and a release by ECU on Wednesday referenced issues of traveling after a hurricane. ECU is 1-1 after beating North Carolina last week and plays against South Florida in Tampa next Saturday night for its American Athletic Conference opener.

“The location (of Orlando) was determined based on the track of Hurricane Florence and lodging availability, along with lessons learned from recent past difficulties returning home to an area impacted by widespread flooding,” the release said. “Should this be the case again as forecasted, accessibility and transitional logistics for our next game in Tampa become manageable.”

A  team spokesman said Wednesday that ECU’s football team is hoping to practice some in Florida this week and have media availability via teleconference early next week.

The university has canceled classes until further notice and encouraged students to leave Greenville.

ECU players and coaches tried to keep things as normal as possible Monday and Tuesday as the threat of Florence loomed over football activities. Practice was held in Greenville on Tuesday morning and later in the day the game was canceled.

“As the team left Greenville this morning, it was hard not knowing what the circumstances will be like when we can come back,” freshman quarterback and Greenville native Holton Ahlers tweeted late Wednesday morning. “So many great people and places. Y’all are in our prayers.”

Fans and representatives from East Carolina and Virginia Tech engaged in somewhat of a public spat Tuesday after the Pirates announced late Tuesday afternoon that none of their teams will travel to games this week, citing significant and imminent safety concerns.

Virginia Tech was planning on waiting until Wednesday to determine a status for the game, which was originally set for a 12:20 p.m. kickoff at Lane Stadium. ECU would have bused to Roanoke, Va., and then Blacksburg under normal circumstances.

After learning of East Carolina’s decision to not travel to Blacksburg, a statement from VT athletics director Whit Babcock late Tuesday afternoon drew the ire of some when he said, in part, “We certainly understand the need for safety, of course, we just felt that (Wednesday), making the decision then, would’ve been more responsible and accurate. We informed ECU of this multiple times.”

Pirate coach Scottie Montgomery was asked after Tuesday morning’s practice if he thought playing the game Sunday would be a good idea, and he referenced the importance of the team not getting stuck in Virginia after the hurricane hits.

“We have a full season to keep going and we also are going to have to get going into the next work week,” Montgomery said. “I don’t want to get stuck somewhere and not be able to work.”

ECU also had its Week 1 game against North Carolina A&T postponed one day from Sept. 1 to Sept. 2 because of lightning that was deemed an immediate threat to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Pirates getting out of Greenville could end up being similar to 1999 and Hurricane Floyd.

Floyd’s impact displaced that team and it practiced in South Carolina in preparation for playing against ninth-ranked Miami in a game that was moved to N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.

Miami, ironically nicknamed the Hurricanes, led 23-3 during the third quarter before quarterback David Garrard and East Carolina rallied for a dramatic and emotional 27-23 victory. It was the highlight of a 6-0 start and 9-3 season by the Pirates, and it is still considered one of the most memorable moments in ECU athletics history.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter. 

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