ECU held a press conference Friday morning to officially introduce the new ECU head football coach, Ruffin McNeill.
WITN streamed it live on witn.com and WITN's My TV Network on 7.2. Look for the links to the video of the press conference and the Q&A section above.
Terry Holland, ECU Athletic Director, started off the press conference by saying this is a very special day for the university.
Holland had his wife, Ann, make the introduction, saying he would get too choked up to do it himself.
"We haven't gotten much sleep the last two nights, as you can imagine," said Ruffin McNeill, the new head ECU football coach.
He said he and his wife, Erlene, landed in Greenville this week, and both said "we're home."
McNeill said he knows this has been a very trying time for the Pirate Nation.
"I am honored, humbled and excited to become your next football coach," McNeill said. "This is a dream come true."
McNeill also said "this is not a stepping stone, this is my destination job."
McNeill said he will focus first on two primary jobs.
First, service "to the university, in whatever way they need me... to the football program and those kids who we met last night, and I got a chance to hug them up."
He also talked about service to the community, the city of Greenville, the alumni and the Pirate Nation.
McNeill said his second primary job focuses around "What can I do today to make sure I better East Carolina University? What is Ruff doing today to better East Carolina University? What are we doing today to better East Carolina University?"
He talked about recruiting and that he will have to get traveling soon.
"Trust, commitment and caring" are the three pillars he wants to build upon. He talked about ECU's program already being built on rock, not on sand.
He said in his initial meetings he said asked for "professionalism, always be an adult and always conduct ourselves in a classy and championship manner."
McNeill said he has spoken with all the recruits, either in person or by phone.
He said he would make the players work hard and also love them hard.
McNeill is seen as a father figure to many.
To the parents of the players, he gave a message... "I will take care of your most prized possessions."
When talking about the emotional transition this has been, McNeill cracked up the crowd saying "coaches don't cry, their eyeballs sweat."
McNeill talked about how he has "been preparing for this with 29 years of coaching."
He talked about what he has done so far.
"First thing we accomplished last night was meeting with the current players," McNeill said.
He said reporting is the second thing of most importance, talking with the recruits last night. He called recruiting the "lifeline of the program" and said he's going to see how many planes he can catch and how many motels he can stay in next week, referencing his future recruiting efforts.
McNeill also added North Carolina will always be the primary recruiting area. He also said his ties and connections in Texas could lead to potential recruits, and that he would take a hard look at them, especially the "big, fast ones," drawing more laughter from the crowd.
He said his offensive coordinator has been set, and it will be Lincoln Riley from Texas Tech. The ECU offensive coordinator position was formerly held by Steve Shankweiler, who was also a frontrunner for the head coaching job.
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Former Pirate defensive back and assistant coach Ruffin McNeill is back home.
McNeill, who starred as a four-year letterman in the late 1970s and most recently served on the Texas Tech staff for the last 10 seasons, has been appointed head football coach at East Carolina University according to an announcement from director of athletics Terry Holland.
With his hiring, McNeill becomes ECU's 20th head football coach in the school's history.
The Executive Committee of the ECU Board of Trustees, acting for the full board, approved the appointment of McNeill and the outline of his contract in a conference call meeting Thursday evening. The board will consider McNeill’s contract at a regular meeting next month.
“Coach McNeill's interview revealed his strong commitment to doing things the right way and his love of coaching young men to grow in every part of their lives. “ Holland said. “His excitement for what ECU Football can become in the future was contagious and his deep and abiding appreciation for what East Carolina University has meant to him and his family was truly moving.
“There is no doubt about his ability to lead ECU Football to new heights and his determination to guarantee that happens under his watch,” Holland added. “He intends to bring new and exciting offensive schemes to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, combined with an aggressive defense that will be designed to get the ball back in the offense’s hands.”
McNeill concluded his 24th overall season at the collegiate level as Texas Tech's interim head coach by rallying the No. 21 Red Raiders to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 after the dismissal of Mike Leach. In addition to helping the program complete the year with nine triumphs, McNeill's steady hand was responsible for Texas Tech's first season-ending three-game winning streak since 1995.
The 2009 campaign marked his 10th season as a member of Leach’s staff and second full year as the defensive coordinator. He served the final nine games of 2007 in that role on an interim basis, before taking over officially in 2008. McNeill, who also coached the linebackers, was regarded as one of the most versatile coaches on the staff and also one of the most beloved by the Red Raider football team.
Seen as a father figure by those within the program, McNeill was credited with promoting a family-type atmosphere, while at the same time providing disciplined instruction on the field.
His stamp on the Red Raider defense was apparent in 2008 as the unit helped lead Texas Tech to one of the most memorable seasons in school history. The defense ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference in total defense, fourth in scoring defense and third in pass defense. The rush defense improved from the previous season by 37 yards per game.
The defense totaled 34 sacks on the season to rank among the Big 12’s top three. Tech’s push up the middle not only aided in the unit’s ability to stop the run, but also contributed to the disruption of the some of the conference’s more potent offenses. Colby Whitlock’s safety against Texas early in the first half set the tone for the rest of the game as Tech handed the No. 1 Longhorns a 39-33 defeat. Other players made similar plays throughout the season, enabling the unit to get Tech’s high-powered offense back onto the field for its record-setting scoring season.
In just nine games as the defensive coordinator in 2007, McNeil helped the unit make an overnight transition that paid dividends for the program. While the Red Raiders finished third overall in the Big 12 in total defense, they finished first when factoring in only the final nine games of the season for each league institution. The secondary defended its title as the league’s top pass defense, while numbers in other areas also improved dramatically.
The Texas Tech defensive unit has steadily improved each of the last four seasons – no season more evident than 2007. Led by the men up front to the guys in the back, the Red Raiders’ defense assisted in Tech’s 26 sacks to its 10 interceptions.
McNeill’s defensive tackles in 2007 were among the best in the league, including the play of true freshman Whitlock at nose tackle. Whitlock had 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks while earning first-team Freshman All-America honors.
McNeill’s leadership as special teams coordinator until 2008 took the unit to a new level. Known as the “Little Engine that Could,” current New England Patriot Wes Welker set NCAA records in career punt returns, punt return yards and punt returns for touchdowns.
Placekicker Alex Trlica set NCAA records for career PATs made without a miss (233) and is Tech’s all-time scoring leader for a kicker (371), ranking third on the all-time scoring list. Former punter Alex Reyes set a Tech career punt average record with 43.3 yards per punt in 2006, passing former Tech and Chicago Bear great Maury Buford.
A cause of a great deal of frustration for opposing punt return units, the Red Raider punting team allowed only 120 punt return yards, a 222-yard improvement from 2005.
A charter member of Leach’s initial coaching staff in 2000, McNeill began his career at Texas Tech as linebackers coach during the 2000-02 seasons, before taking over defensive tackles and special teams duties in 2003.
Under his tutelage, middle linebacker Lawrence Flugence rose to national prominence, setting an NCAA record with 193 tackles in 2002. A seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 2005, current Baltimore Ravens linebacker Mike Smith honed his skills under McNeill during his first two seasons, earning a starting nod midway through his freshman campaign. John Saldi also found success as he kicked off his career as the Defensive MVP of the Tangerine Bowl during his freshman season in 2002.
McNeill began his coaching career as a defensive coach at Lumberton (N.C.) High School from 1980-84, before taking his first collegiate position as a graduate assistant coaching linebackers at Clemson during the 1985-86 seasons. The Tigers won the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1986 and advanced to the Gator Bowl, a year after appearing in the Independence Bowl.
Following one-year stints at Austin Peay State and North Alabama as linebackers coach, McNeill spent three seasons on the mountain at Appalachian State, where the team won the Southern Conference title in 1991. In his first tour of duty at ASU, the school appeared in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs each season. He returned to the Boone, N.C., program after a year as defensive line coach at his alma mater, East Carolina, in 1992. As defensive coordinator at Appalachian State from 1993-96, the team won the 1995 Southern Conference title and competed in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs at the conclusion of the 1994-96 regular seasons.
McNeill tapped the professional ranks for experience, working as a summer intern with the Miami Dolphins in 1996. From there he went to UNLV in 1997 and 1998 as defensive coordinator both seasons and assistant head coach in 1998.
A four-year letterwinner at East Carolina from 1976-80, McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and was the team captain for two seasons. He helped lead ECU to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in 1978 - the school's first in what is recognized as the modern era. He graduated from East Carolina in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in education and earned a master’s degree in secondary counseling from Clemson in 1987.
McNeill, 51, and his wife, Erlene, have two daughters, Olivia (19) and Renata (29). Olivia is a sophomore at Appalachian State.
McNeill directly succeeds Skip Holtz, who accepted the top football coaching position at South Florida Jan. 14.
It's expected we will soon officially know who the choice is for the head coach of the ECU Pirates football team.
Top candidates include current ECU offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler and Texas Tech coordinator Ruffin McNeill.
Two sources told WITN earlier this afternoon Shankweiler was the frontrunner. Other sources say McNeill has the nod.
Late Thursday afternoon, the bulk of the reports indicate Ruffin is head coach, but no official confirmation has come.
Shankweiler told WITN News at 4:30 p.m. that he doesn't know the outcome.
The executive committee of the East Carolina University Board of Trustees is holding "an emergency conference call meeting at 5 p.m. today (Thursday, January 21, 2010). The committee will immediately move into closed session to consider the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment or conditions of initial employment of a prospective employee. Any action taken by the committee will be in open session."
The prospective employee's name was not given.
WITN will be there and bring you updates.
Don't be surprised to see a "tandem" coaching job announcement by ECU where Steve Shankweiler and Ruffin McNeil are named as head coach and associate head coach, in whatever capacity they have been chosen for.
ECU athletics director Terry Holland has gone in that direction before. Prior to the 2005-2006 basketball season, Holland hired Ricky Stokes as head coach and also named current head coach Mack McCarthy as the Pirates associate head coach.
Texas Tech defensive coordinator and former ECU Pirate player and coach Ruffin McNeill is being interviewed today at East Carolina University.
According to the Red Raider website, McNeill has been involved in coaching on the collegiate level for 24 seasons.
The website reports McNeill, age 51, is entering his 10th season with Texas Tech and outlines his other coaching experience. He was at ECU in 1992.
"Following one-year stints at Austin Peay State and North Alabama as linebackers coach, McNeill spent three seasons on the hill at Appalachian State, where the team won the Southern Conference title in 1991. In his first tour of duty at ASU, the school appeared in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs each season. He returned to the Boone, N.C., program after a year as defensive line coach at his alma mater, East Carolina, in 1992. As defensive coordinator at Appalachian State from 1993-96, the team won the 1995 Southern Conference title and competed in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs at the conclusion of the 1994-96 regular seasons. McNeill tapped the professional ranks for experience, working as a summer intern with the Miami Dolphins in 1996. From there he went to UNLV in 1997 and 1998 as defensive coordinator in both seasons and assistant head coach in 1998," the website reports.
The website also states: "A four-year letterwinner at East Carolina from 1976 to 1980, McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and was the team captain for two seasons. He helped lead ECU to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in 1978. He graduated from East Carolina in 1980 and received a master's degree in counseling from Clemson in 1987."
McNeill has been with Texas Tech for nine seasons. With the suspension of head coach Mike Leach in December for the alleged mistreatment of a player, McNeill was named interim head coach. Leach was then fired.
Some speculate McNeill will not continue on with the Red Raider program. As we reported, he is still listed on the website. Leach is not.
WITN also confirmed today that Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson was interviewed for the ECU job Wednesday.
Sources say Wilson is not a leading candidate.
Sources also say a combo of Steve Shankweiler, the current ECU offensive coordinator, and McNeill is very possible to lead the Pirate program into the future.
Shankweiler is currently on his third tour at ECU. He's the offensive coordinator and line coach.
He has been a part of seven bowl appearances at ECU, including the 1991 Peach Bown win over N.C. State.
He worked at ECU under Art Baker and Bill Lewis from 1987 to 1991 and under Steve Logan from 1998 to 2002. He was most recently hired to the Pirates team in 2004.
According to the ECU website: "In 2005, he guided a unit that passed for 2,816 yards, which ranked as the highest total in nearly 10 years (1996) and fourth-best all-time. In addition, Shankweiler coordinated an offense that averaged 393.5 total yards per game, a mark which stands among the school's top 10 in history, and was directly responsible for the successful conversion of former tight end Guy Whimper into a fourth round draft choice of the New York Giants as a tackle. Shankweiler followed with another stellar performance a year later, coordinating a unit that set a new school single-season record for first downs (264)while turning in the school's third-best passing mark (3,024 yards) and sixth-best total offense tally (4,526) in the program's annals. Perhaps more impressive was that the success came behind a line he developed and tutored which featured just one senior and two full-time rookie starters who both earned selection to the Conference USA All- Freshman squads (media and coaches)."
Shankweiler has also worked at South Carolina, the University of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, The Citadel and Western Kentucky
Shankweiler is 56, and he and his wife Patti have two daughters and a son, who was once a fullback at ECU.
According to footballcoachscoop.Com and WITN sources, Oklahoma offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, will be interviewing for the job.
Wilson is from Maiden, North Carolina and is a former University of North Carolina football player. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina A&T so he has experience recruiting in the state of North Carolina.
Wilson has been at Oklahoma since 2002 helping the Sooners to eight consecutive bowl games.
Interviewing Wilson leads one to believe that Terry Holland has began to focus on top assistants, meaning former head coaches the likes of Mike Leach, Tommy and Terry Bowden, Dave Clawson, Al Golden and Jeff Jagodzinski are likely not candidates to replace Skip Holtz.
WITN has also confirmed that former Texas Tech assistant Ruffin McNeil will interview with ECU. Pirate assistant Steve Shankweiler also remains a strong candidate.