I didn’t really know Coach Emory…more…I knew of him. When my old man sat me down one weekend in 1983 and said, “watch this team play, son, they don’t back down from anyone,” I did and was hooked. My old man had played on a very similar team at Villanova in the late ’50s – the kind of team that was known for taking on anyone, anywhere, and sometimes shocking them. I remember watching that ECU team play and then following the program. A few years later, I was a student at ECU.
Ed Emory was gone by then – Art Baker was the head man by the time I got there – but Emory’s passion was well known and understood by my fellow sports-nut classmates at ECU.
But, it was many years later when I got the chance to speak to Ed directly. I was a writer and I interviewed him on a couple of occasions, usually to get a few comments on an ECU-related angle. I interviewed him often enough that when I came calling for him to do an extensive interview on his own life and times, he was gracious enough to grant it and moreso, trusting enough to put no limits on the interview. The result, I feel, was a purging for the Coach of some very pent up emotions. The results of those interviews can be found within the embedded links in today’s offering on the coach at Bonesville. Click Here for that package.
No man is without fault, and Ed would have been the first to point out his own faults, but his passion and love for ECU are unquestioned and rivaled by few. You were either with ECU or against her…no gray area. You really didn’t want to be caught in eyeshot of Coach Emory with Carolina or State clothing on and you definitely would not want to be near him in that garb on hallowed Pirate ground…he would probably make a grab at ripping it right off your body. He poured himself into ECU as a player and a coach and really was an avid supporter after the split from the Pirates program in 1984. In fact, he loved nothing better than to see one of his high school players find their way to ECU and wasn’t bashful about prodding an undecided kid toward the Pirates.
If he didn’t create the ECU “chip” he sure as hell added a good number of layers to it, personally. And for that, we all owe him a debt or at least some gratitude because without that chip, ECU would have long ago been relegated to the dregs of football. He was, the football coach equivalent to our beloved former Chancellor/President Leo Jenkins…that much passion, that much love, and that much gumption.
Like the passing of Dr. Jenkins and Coach Stas, and Coach Vansant, and select group of others, Ed’s passing leaves another void in the Pirate family…but like those pivotal players in ECU’s past, there is comfort in knowing that he joins those great Pirates in a place where there has to be a nice swath of Purple and Gold and a football field to his liking.
Godspeed Ed…your Pirate legacy is a rich and cherished one.
Awesome tribute Ron.
Very nice column. I had the good fortune to know Ed Emory pretty well and you are exactly right – there was no middle ground about ECU with Coach Emory.We could use many more like him.
Hi Mike…thanks for the comment.
Hope 2013 has started off well for you and yours.
Always love to hear your thoughts on things here or via email.
very nice article pharma…didn’t know much about coach Emory until his death.
Ron I read all of your Ed Emory stories before you sent this out and I must say it was really really great stuff you wrote. I was at ECU when he got his start and was there to play another sport. I remember being some skinny little kid who spent next to no time on a college campus. My parents packed the car droped me off at Belk Dorm as thats where all of the teams stayed other than basketball in those days. I remembering walking into the lobby at Belk and the first guy I ran into was Terry Long and thought Holy S— look at the size of that guy. I to this day think the 83 team was the best to wear the Purple and Gold and I think the fact that the team never got its reward still bothers me to this day. I feel a personal mission to finally make right what I thought was a great injustice and I carry that chip with me to this very day. I thought it was great that coach hated to see kids walking around with other schools shirts around campus. I will never forget writing an english paper on that very subject complaining about that and why did so many of my fellow classmates have a soft spot for UNC and State. That it should be ECU first and the other programs can go pound sand. For my efforts I got a nice fat D. I guess the professor was a UNC grad but I made my point. I never knew much of where Emory came from but what rings clear was his great passion for ECU. I was a Mendenhall student center the day he was fired and was interviewed on the local news that night either for Jim Woods or another TV guy whos name escapes me. Of course I thought the firing was wrong but in those days you were never really given the reason why he was let go. They said it was the record but you would think he earned a mulligan or two. To this day I didnt know but now I do thanks to your stories. I knew our athletic program didnt have much in those days infact the guy that ran the athletic facilities at the school was a guy named Bob Helmick was that the same guy mentioned as being the problem in Tulsa. Bob served as our golf coach and most of the funding that came with the program came out of Bobs pocket. After reading everything you wrote I sat down for a few hours and started to think how much different things could have been for ECU had Emory stayed. Could we have switched places with Virgina Tech with Emory at the helm? or would we be in a far better place than still struggling to find a seat at the table? Emory was exactly the type of leader we have needed at ECU someone who dreams big, than works hard to get there and gets others to share his vision. The closest thing to Emory has been Logan who also had that same chip. It has taken (and this scares me saying this due to my old age) 30 years to find the next Emory and thats Ruff. Times have changed and I see Ruff as the cleaned up version of Emory more willing to accept his fate rather than take bold steps to overcome it. Having spent so much time with the man what are your thoughts? I really think ECU would be in a far better place today had they not pulled the plug on Coach. Thanks again for the great stories. I would be interested in your thoughts.
Hey DCP28…thanks for taking the time to write down and share your thoughts on Coach Emory…it is a great read.
It means a great deal to me that some of you take the time to read the stuff I write and I mean that sincerely.
You know, I have a sort of split personality on Coach Ruff and I am not sure what is more important for the program right now, at this juncture in college football. On the one hand, he is a Pirate to the core…he loves this university and would lay down on the tracks for it. He earned a great deal of respect, IMO, with his actions in regards to the defense this week as many – at least those I speak to close to the program and diehard observers alike – by pulling the plug on the DC. Now, I do not know whether he did it proactively or if he was prodded, but he did it and it was painful for him, but he put the program ahead of a personal friendship which any of us who have lived a few years knows is a hard thing to do when it is necessary.
I like the culture he has established, I like his passion, I think he connects well with today’s athletes but also demands that they be good people first. All of this is great for a program.
On the other hand, I do not see a program that is percolating toward greatness. It is hard to ignore the fact that our level of competitiveness is dropping each year. Eight wins is nice, but the reality is, we had 8 wins against bad programs that were having unusually bad seasons even relative to themselves. And, we didn’t look like we were anywhere near the level of the four teams who beat us in the regular season. We haven’t won a bowl game in forever and we are beginning an AD transition which is scary under even the best circumstances. New ADs typically want their own hires in place.
I write some of this off to the fact that Coach Ruff – despite his longevity in the coaching ranks – is a near-rookie head coach. He came to town as a rookie HC and opted to put two youngins at two pivotal coaching positions. High risk right out of the gate and it has showed on both sides of the ball. When the OC or DC has faltered, Ruff has not been seasoned enough to step in with a solution until after the damage has been done. So far, that has been worrisome.
I like his decision to bring in veteran coach Kirk Doll and hope he does the same on defense now (including letting the new DC weigh in heavily on the rest of the defensive staff.) That would show some HC veteran savvy developing in Ruff.
All that said…no one will ever love your baby more than you…even that super high-priced nanny, so all things considered, wouldn’t your rather have your baby in your own hands? So, I pray that Ruff succeeds because his love for the Pirates will not be surpassed by another coach who doesn’t have the same lineage.
Probably didn’t really answer you, but that’s where my head is today.
Again, thanks for sharing your memories…they are valuable commentary.