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WOODWARD: Critical decisions are looming

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The Daily Reflector

Monday, November 5, 2018

The most important two-day stretch of the fall semester for East Carolina athletics came crashing over Greenville on Friday and Saturday.

The days represented separate, yet congruent and utterly important missions bound to mesh more and more as November progresses and December nears.

Chancellor Cecil Staton gave the ECU athletics director situation the most clarity it has had in months on Friday afternoon when he declared that the school’s AD search committee hopes to have a permanent director identified by the end of football season.

One afternoon later, there was a season-low announced attendance of 29,127 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium — that is tickets distributed, not a reflection of the scattered people actually in the stands for a noticeably lousy atmosphere — and the Pirates lost 59-41 to Memphis. The career record for third-year coach Scottie Montgomery fell to 8-24.

ECU is 0-5 in the American Athletic Conference this season, giving Montgomery a 3-18 mark in 21 league games.

Fans are upset with the product that this year is improved from a season ago, yet a familiar feeling of a few marquee wins is being rightfully overshadowed by East Carolina not winning against the middle level of the AAC. Some fans are open and emotional in evaluating Montgomery. Some are evaluating the situation simply by not showing up to games.

Staton and special athletics adviser Dave Hart are evaluating Montgomery each Saturday, albeit in a more behind-the-scenes manner.

Most importantly, potential AD candidates are evaluating Montgomery. No worthy athletics director is accepting the Pirates’ vacant post without some thoughts of their own or plan about how to proceed with Pirate football.

Even Montgomery offered one of his most insightful answers of the season during Saturday’s postgame news conference when he was asked about ECU’s 0-5 conference record and he indicated the strength of the AAC does not include the Pirates right now, and that is frustrating for him.

“We want to beat these teams and we are getting closer,” he said. “Last year, we weren’t as close as we are right now.”

ECU players walked in to the media room and many were asked if they are feeling pressure to win for Montgomery, knowing that how the team fares during the final four games of the season is going to factor into thoughts by current and/​or future Pirate administrators on when or if a coaching change is needed.

“You might have extra motivation, but I wouldn’t call it pressure, because at the end of the day we don’t like losing,” senior offensive captain Garrett McGhin said. “You think we can just play the game to save someone else’s job? No, this is attached to my name and when I leave East Carolina they are going to see Garrett McGhin and however many wins I have. … This is personal.”

Who will be East Carolina’s athletics director one week from now? One month from now? Who will be ECU’s football coach one week from now? One month from now?

Separate questions for the Pirates have never been so tied together.

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


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