GREENVILLE, N.C. - A season-opening three-game homestand, which includes a meeting with perennial Atlantic Coast Conference contender Virginia Tech, and in-state battles at North Carolina and North Carolina State highlight East Carolina's 2013 football schedule released Wednesday by Conference USA.
While contests against the Hokies, Tar Heels and Wolfpack all continue long-standing series', the Pirates will face four opponents for the first time this fall. In addition to C-USA newcomers Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Middle Tennessee, ECU will welcome Old Dominion to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to kick off the campaign on Aug. 31.
The opener against the Monarchs, who finished 11-2 with a No. 6 national rank in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in 2012, will be followed by a visit from Florida Atlantic a week later to start league play.
After a one-year hiatus, the Pirates and Hokies will resume their series that was renewed in 2007 and now features annual meetings until 2020. Virginia Tech, which captured a 13-10 decision over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl last December, returns to Greenville on Sept. 14 for the eighth overall time and its third appearance in the last five years after recent defensive-oriented 16-3 and 17-10 victories in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Following the first of two bye weeks during the season, East Carolina will make the short trip to Chapel Hill to visit the Tar Heels on Sept. 28. The matchup at Kenan Stadium will mark the fouth-straight season the two programs have squared off and feature a pair of divisional co-champions from a year ago.
The Pirates remain on the road the following two weeks with C-USA contests at Middle Tennessee and Tulane before returning to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to host Southern Miss on Oct. 19. The series with the Golden Eagles currently ranks as the Pirates' longest, featuring 38 games and dating back to 1951.
A journey to Florida International on Nov. 2, which represents East Carolina's first visit to the city of Miami since 2003, follows another bye week before the Pirates return to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to close out their home schedule with contests against Tulsa and UAB. The defending C-USA champion and AutoZone Liberty Bowl winner Golden Hurricane return to Greenville for the first time since Ruffin McNeill's head coaching debut that featured a Hail Mary catch by Justin Jones as time expired in a wild 51-49 ECU win on Sept. 5, 2010.
ECU wraps up the three-game ACC portion of its slate by meeting NC State at Carter-Finley Stadium on Nov. 23, extending a 27-game series between the Pirates and Wolfpack that dates back to 1970. Since 2006, the two programs have split the last four games in a home-and-home format - the last two in overtime, both in Raleigh (NCSU/2008) and Greenville (ECU/2010).
Similar to 2011, East Carolina will conclude regular season play against Marshall in Huntington, W.Va. on Nov. 30. The Pirates and Thundering Herd have dashed each other's bowl hopes in successive years, each capturing thrilling overtime decisions on their home field on the final weekend of action.
On the flipside to the oddity of three-straight home contests to open the year, a first for ECU since 1974, the Pirates will make only one appearance at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium after a Sept. 14 meeting against Virginia Tech until a Nov. 9 visit by Tulsa - a span of seven weeks.
"The challenges and goals for our program keep climbing, and that's the way it should be" McNeill said. "Obviously, there will be a lot of excitement and interest in our three games against championship contenders from the ACC and we can't wait for the opportunity to compete for a Conference USA championship.
C-USA's 2013 alignment features seven teams in both the East and West Divisions. FAU, FIU, Marshall, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and UAB join ECU in the East Division, while Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP and UTSA make up the West Division. Each school will play every team in its division once for six games, while playing two cross-over opponents from the opposite division. The 2013 schedule has 14 playing weeks, which provides for the two open dates for each team.
The league's ninth annual title game is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7.
The Pirates, who begin play as a football member of the Big East Conference in 2014, turned in an 8-5 overall record and a 7-1 C-USA mark in 2013 before earning their sixth bowl appearance in the last seven years that resulted in a 43-34 setback to Louisiana-Lafayette at the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Kickoff times, television selections and game designations, including Homecoming and Family Weekend, will be announced once those are determined.
Football season ticket will be made available in late February. Fans who purchased season tickets in 2012 will receive their renewal application by March 1 with a priority deadline of April 1.
2013 ECU FOOTBALL SCHEDULE (series record)
Aug. 31 - OLD DOMINION (0-0)
Sept. 7 - *FLORIDA ATLANTIC (0-0)
Sept. 14 - VIRGINIA TECH (5-12)
Sept. 21 - bye
Sept. 28 - at North Carolina (2-12-1)
Oct. 5 - *at Middle Tennessee (0-0)
Oct. 12 - *at Tulane (10-2)
Oct. 19 - *SOUTHERN MISS (27-11)
Oct. 26 - bye
Nov. 2 - *at Florida International (0-0)
Nov. 9 - *TULSA (5-5)
Nov. 16- *UAB (8-4)
Nov. 23 - at NC State (11-16)
Nov. 30 - *at Marshall (10-4)
Home games in ALL CAPS; *Conference USA game
Dates and designations subject to change pending finalization of television scheduling