GREENVILLE - In addition to featuring seven home games for the second consecutive year, ECU's 2018 football schedule includes contests against seven bowl qualifiers and a pair of undefeated conference champions from a year ago according to a release of the league's composite slate Tuesday by the American Athletic Conference.
For the third time in their five-year membership, the Pirates will open AAC play on the road by traveling to USF on Sept. 22. Complementing ECU's eight league matchups are four previously-announced non-conference meetings against North Carolina A&T (Sept. 1), North Carolina (Sept. 8), at Virginia Tech (Sept. 15) and Old Dominion (Sept. 29).
Of the seven games on Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, five will be played in the first eight weeks of the campaign - including three in the month of September. Including an Oct. 27 bye, the Pirates also will remain in Greenville for nearly a month during a pivotal three-game homestand against projected AAC contenders Houston (Oct. 13), UCF (Oct. 20) and Memphis (Nov. 3).
“Our 2018 schedule offers both a tremendous challenge and opportunity,” ECU Head Coach Scottie Montgomery said. “We again look forward to being in a position to play at least seven games at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and I know everyone is excited about continuing our home-and-home series' with the Tar Heels and Hokies. Our American Conference schedule is set up in a fair manner and, although it presents familiarity with the same divisional format as a year ago, it remains as demanding as ever.”
ECU posted a 3-9 overall mark and stood tied for fourth in the American Athletic Conference's East Division during Montgomery's second campaign as head coach in 2017. The Pirates have qualified for eight bowl appearances in the last 12 years and three in the last six seasons.
Season tickets are on sale now with packages starting as low as $175 each. The priority deadline to order is April 1. Purchases may be made via ECU's Online Ticket Center or by calling the Athletics Ticket Office at (252) 737-4500.
Additionally, the 24th Annual "Meet the Pirates" event, ECU's preseason football fanfest, is scheduled for Saturday, August 18.
2018 SCHEDULE NOTABLES
ECU's 2018 opponents posted a combined 88-60 (.595) record in 2017. The Pirates four non-conference foes were 29-20 (.592), while the eight AAC squads tallied a collective 59-40 (.596 mark). Four programs had 10 or more wins, including UCF (13), North Carolina A&T (12), USF (10) and Memphis (10).
SEVEN BOWL TEAMS
In all, ECU's slate features contests against seven teams which advanced to bowl games a year ago. In addition to North Carolina A&T (Celebration) and Virginia Tech (Camping World), AAC programs USF (Birmingham), Temple (Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla), Houston (Hawai'i), UCF (Chick-fil-A Peach) and Memphis (AutoZone Liberty) each made FBS postseason appearances last season. Of ECU's seven home games, four will be against 2017 bowl qualifiers.
The Pirates will host two defending conference champions who enjoyed undefeated seasons - North Carolina A&T (Mid-Eastern Athletic) and UCF (American Athletic). The Aggies, who went 12-0, also captured the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) national championship by downing Grambling State 21-14 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. UCF capped a perfect 13-0 campaign with a 34-27 victory over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which was played at the same Atlanta facility.
IN THE FINAL POLLS
Four of ECU's 2018 FBS opponents were ranked in college football's two major polls (Associated Press/Amway Coaches) to end the 2017 season - UCF (6/7), USF (21/21), Virginia Tech (24/25) and Memphis (25/24). The Knights (12th), Tigers (20th) and Hokies (22nd) were also included on the last College Football Playoff rankings. North Carolina A&T stood sixth and seventh in the final two major FCS polls (NCAA Coaches, STATS), respectively.
FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACHES
The Pirates will welcome two first-year head coaches to Bagwell Field and Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2018. Sam Washington was appointed to the top North Carolina A&T football position following the retirement of Rod Broadway, while former Missouri Offensive Coordinator Josh Heupel replaced Scott Frost at UCF.
All four 2017 American Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year selections are on the docket to play in Greenville this season - UCF QB McKenzie Milton (offense), Houston DE Ed Oliver (defense), Memphis RB/KR Tony Pollard (special teams) and Memphis DB T.J. Carter (rookie).
LONG RUN VS. ACC CONTINUES
Contests against North Carolina and Virginia Tech will represent the 16th time since 2000 the Pirates have faced off against at least two Atlantic Coast Conference foes in the same season (2000-2011, 2013-14, 2016, 2018). Including 2018, ECU's schedule has featured at least one ACC opponent in 23 consecutive years. The Pirates, who have faced UNC seven times since 2007, currently own a two-game win streak against the Tar Heels. ECU will battle Virginia Tech for the 11th time in the last 12 years when it travels to Blacksburg on Sept. 15.
HOMECOMING AND OTHER DESIGNATIONS
Homecoming festivities will be on full display when ECU hosts UCF on Oct. 20. Other game-day designations, in chronological order, include Pirate Club Day (North Carolina A&T/Sept. 1), Family Weekend (Old Dominion/Sept. 29), Hall of Fame-Letterwinners Day and Faculty-Staff Appreciation Day (Houston/Oct. 13), Military Appreciation Day (Memphis/Nov. 3) and Senior Day (Connecticut/Nov. 17).
COLORS OF THE DAY
ECU will "Paint It Purple" against the Tar Heels and "Paint It Gold" when the Monarchs visit Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
AMERICAN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
The American Conference will conduct its championship game on Dec. 1. The title clash, which pits the winners of the East and West Divisions on the home field of the highest-seeded team, will be broadcast on either ABC or ESPN.
A LATE BYE WEEK
The Pirates’ open date is set for Oct. 27, which is Week 9 of the college football season. The bye follows successive American Conference home tilts against Houston and UCF, while preceding a visit by defending West Division champion Memphis.
ECU will play its regular season finale at Cincinnati on Friday, Nov. 23. The Pirates are 14-11 in non-Saturday road games since 2000, which includes victories in its last two outings - a 44-7 Thursday win at UCF in 2015 and a 41-38 Sunday triumph at Connecticut in 2017. ECU's last Friday victory was a 49-32 decision at Tulsa in 2014.
WHAT ABOUT KICKOFF TIMES AND TELEVISION PICKS?
Kickoff times and television selections for the first three weeks of the season will be announced in June, while the remainder will be through the traditional 12-day/6-day process.