Let’s face it. We all love to get a shot at the in-state, ACC squads. This weekend provides another opportunity for our Pirates to take out a some repressed emotions on one of the schools whose fans seem to take endless jabs at ECU for whatever reasons. It always surprises me the extent to which some of the folks at UNC and N.C. State go to run down a school that they both seem to believe is not anywhere in their league from any perspective. You’d think that they would simply ignore the down east system school. But, alas, they do not.
Because I do see this as a rivalry, I have been reading anything in print to prepare for this game, including some DB’s fringe blog covering the Wolfpack wherein the basic thrust of the post was, “sorry ECU, you will never be a rivalry to N.C. State…” While everyone is entitled to an opinion and the ECU – N.C. State series is what it is to each individual, it did give me pause to think about the relationship between the two schools. Casting aside the opinion of that singular blowhard, I have to say that most of the N.C. State fans I know consider this a very good rivalry and its a rivalry, really in large part, thanks to N.C. State themselves.
Wikipedia defines a sports rivalry this way:
An intense competition between athletic teams or athletes. This pressure of competition is felt by players, coaches, and management, but is perhaps felt strongest by the fans.”
I would submit that there are some factors that should also be added to this definition: 1) Proximity to one another; 2) Great stakes hanging the balance; 3) Existence of unbreakable bonds/links between the fans for either side; and 4) Records, rankings, stars, etc., are meaningless.
With this definition, how is this not a rivalry. I know that irritates some of our Wolfpack friends, but sorry, you brought this on yourselves really. Yes, I guess you could (and will) say that the N.C. Legislature forced you to play ECU (though the bill was only proposed) but I understand the “we was blackmailed” mantra some in Raleigh hold on to, but no one forced your ADs to extend and extend again the series. No, that was State’s own doing and respectfully, a greatly appreciated act from our hearts to yours. But, once the series was extended, the rivalry was solidified.
See, for the first 18 games in the series (dating back to 1970), when all the games were played in Raleigh, the Pack won a healthy 12-6 margin in the rivalry/not a rivalry. Much like State’s nemesis in Chapel Hill, the Wolfpack would NOT play ECU anywhere but at home. But once they “helped little old ECU out” and extended the series, making trips to ECU and playing the Pirates at neutral sites, well…a rivalry was indeed born.
Let’s see, since the 19th game in the series, ECU holds a 5-4 advantage, including a 2-1 mark in Greenville and a 2-1 mark on neutral fields. And, oh yeah, the last two games have gone to overtime. Looking back at the “rivalry period” it seems that the fans have also weighed in on this game in the time-tested manner…tickets bought and asses in seats. Consider that many of State’s largest attendance figures have come with the Pirates visiting Raleigh and the last two games, in Greenville and Raleigh, respectively, blew past capacity for both stadiums. Sure does…well…smell like a rivalry. In fact, the famed Peach Bowl game in 1992, at the time established a new record for the largest attendance for a college football game played between two North Carolina teams…OMG, a record that didn’t have anything to do with UNC. The horror.
Proximity…hmmm. Approximately 83 miles is the distance between the two schools…competing for markets, competing for students, competing for recruits, and competing for fans.
A stake in the outcome. Let’s see, the top of the prize for winning is recruits. Of all the ACC teams in the state that ECU recruits against, the one school that ECU seems to “edge out” at times for top in-state recruits is N.C. State. Not UNC, not Duke, not even Wake…but State and I can’t help thinking that the regularity and the close ledger between the two schools has a lot to do with it.
Hell, the two student governments – two meaning BOTH, not just ECU – felt the need in 2007 to begin awarding a tangible “trophy” for the winner – The Victory Barrel – which now has engraved on it, the year, final score and winner of each game dating back to 1970. Why in the world would N.C. State’s own student body endorse this if it didn’t matter?
Records and rankings have NEVER mattered in this series and I don’t expect the game will be anything less than a nail-biter on Saturday (which I wish were not the case).
Finally, at the core of the rivalry is the fact that our fan bases are so intimately connected. We are husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, high school mates, co-workers, friends of the highest order. We all come from the same gene pool which makes it impossible for this not to be a rivalry from the sheer value of the bragging rights that a win allows.
Even with the woes this season in Raleigh where the Pack is having a miserable season, I am hearing from more of my N.C. State friends than ever this week. I have read more about the Wolfpack team this week than I will the other 51 all year. It matters and it is important that it does because our state and the sport needs it to.
How do I feel about N.C. State football? I like them. Always have and here’s why (in no particular order): Some of my closest friends went to N.C. State and the engineers that I know from there are unbelievably talented. Great school without a doubt. Save a few pockets of nuts in their fan base, for the most part, they have always respected our program. They willingly played us for years and came to our house to do so. Their passion for football is much closer to ours than to Chapel Hill’s.
And, finally, from the files of the enemy of my enemy is my friend department…you gotta admit, the work that some of their fans have done to undercover and expose the sheer criminal behavior at our flagship university is Pulitzer prize worthy work. And for that, I have to say not only do I respect them, I admire them.
I love the rivalry and look forward to continuing it.
BUT…God…I wish we were playing anyone but State this weekend!!!
Our biggest game of the year is next week and its for all the beans in CUSA. For a shot at another CUSA title, for a high-quality bowl game, for a proper exit from our old league as we move into the new. Everything is on the line in a hostile road environment at Marshall in a week and we have to now play against a heated rival with recruits possibly in the balance…I do not like this one bit.
And, because it is such a rivalry, I am thinking this game could be a season breaker for our Pirates. The emotions will be sky-high for obvious reasons and our kids will be ready for the dogfight it will be, but the outcome could take a heavy toll on the team who must get jacked back up the following week. If we have to split games, I want Marshall and the program needs Marshall.
So, despite every single measurable favoring the Pirates and favoring them big, I am thinking it will be a tough go over in Carter-Finley…I really do. I do think that the ECU players will play well and execute…I also think that the Wolfpack players will far exceed their execution all season and will be gunning for this one last opportunity to claim anything meaningful in this wayward season they are having.
Because, this time around, this is State’s 2013 Super Bowl and we are going to get their best effort of the season.
Go Pirates, Go.