GREENVILLE, N.C. - Contests against five bowl qualifiers, games versus a trio of programs that finished in the Top 25 and home matchups with Navy and Conference USA West Division champion Houston highlight East Carolina’s 2012 football schedule released Thursday by C-USA officials.
After the Pirates kick off the campaign Sept. 1 by renewing an in-state football rivalry with Appalachian State that covers 30 games and spans 80 years, ECU will open a three-game road swing that begins with a Sept. 8 trip to Columbia to face South Carolina.
It will be the Pirates’ first visit to a Southeastern Conference program since a 21-3 victory over the Gamecocks on Sept. 18, 1999. Head coach Steve Spurrier’s club ended the 2011 season ranked No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll after posting an 11-2 record and 30-13 victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.
East Carolina will continue its September journey by opening C-USA play against defending champion Southern Miss on Sept. 15 before closing out the trek by facing North Carolina on Sept. 22.
The Golden Eagles earned the league title last December after defeating Houston 49-28 and went on to top Nevada in the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl to end the campaign with a 12-2 record and No. 19 ranking. In the Pirates' last meeting against USM in Hattiesburg, ECU came back to claim a 44-43 victory after trailing 20-0 in the first quarter.
East Carolina's short voyage to Chapel Hill will mark the fourth-straight season the two in-state programs have squared off. The Tar Heels finished last year with a 7-6 mark and fell to Missouri 41-24 in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
The Pirates will return to league action by welcoming UTEP to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the first time since 2008 a week later to close out the month of September. C-USA East Division clashes against UCF, Memphis and UAB will follow on successive weeks before East Carolina wraps up non-conference play by hosting Navy on Oct. 27. The Pirates will try to even the four-game series after edging the Midshipmen 38-35 in Annapolis last fall.
Houston, which rolled to an unblemished 8-0 regular season league record on the way to a 13-1 overall mark in 2011, returns to Greenville on Nov. 3 for the first time since the 2009 C-USA Championship Game. The Cougars stood 14th in the final USA Today Coaches' Poll after their 30-14 win over No. 22 Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl.
Following an off week, East Carolina will travel to Tulane on Nov. 17 before wrapping up regular season play at home for the fifth time in the last six years when it meets Marshall on Nov. 24.
"It's pretty obvious we'll need to come of out the gate ready to go," third-year ECU Head Coach Ruffin McNeill said. "Although challenging, we're all excited to open the season against four teams that earned the right to go to the postseason. I like the way our Conference USA schedule is set up and consider it an honor to have Navy back at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium,"
The Pirates will play three of the last four and four of their last six at home after enduring identical stretches on the road to open the campaign. Additionally, half (six) of ECU's opponents in 2012 will feature first-year head coaches at their respective schools - Southern Miss, North Carolina, Memphis, UAB, Houston and Tulane.
Season ticket packages will go on-sale Wednesday, February 22. Fans who purchased season tickets in 2011 will receive their renewal application in mid-February with a priority deadline of April 1.
Sept. 1 - APPALACHIAN STATE
Sept. 8 - at South Carolina
Sept. 15 - *at Southern Miss
Sept. 22 - at North Carolina
Sept. 29 - *UTEP (FW)
Oct. 6 - *at UCF
Oct. 13 - *MEMPHIS (HC)
Oct. 20 - *at UAB
Oct. 27 - NAVY (MIL)
Nov. 3 - *HOUSTON (HOF)
Nov. 17 - *at Tulane
Nov. 24 - *MARSHALL (SD)
Home games in ALL CAPS; *Conference USA game; FW-Family Weekend, HC-Homecoming, MIL-Military Appreciation Day, HOF-Hall of Fame/Letterwinners Day, SD-Senior Day; Dates and designations subject to change pending finalization of television scheduling.