GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) - Head football coach Mike Houston's first ECU schedule features plenty of balance, home matchups against three bowl qualifiers from a year ago and a nationally-televised Thursday night clash according to a release of the American Athletic Conference's 2019 composite slate.
Both halves of the Pirates' new schedule are split evenly with three home and three road games each, while Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will host two regular season contests every month of the campaign. Additionally, there are well-placed byes in Week 7 and Week 12, which follows ECU's visit to SMU - its longest trip of the year.
The American and ESPN also tabbed an ECU home game among its early broadcast selections with a Thursday night battle against Temple on Oct. 3. The Owls stood second in the AAC's East Division with a 7-1 mark last season before advancing to the Walk-On's Independence Bowl.
The Pirates will open AAC play on the road for fourth time in their six-year membership by traveling to Navy on Sept. 14 to face the Midshipman in a contest broadcast by CBS Sports Network. Complementing ECU's eight league tilts are four previously-announced non-conference meetings at NC State (Aug. 31), vs. Gardner-Webb (Sept. 7), vs. William & Mary (Sept. 21) and at Old Dominion (Sept. 28).
In all, the Pirates will face five opponents which made bowl appearances in 2018, which includes road dates at NC State and defending AAC champion UCF. Besides Temple, ECU will also welcome USF and Cincinnati to Greenville in back-to-back weeks on Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, respectively.
"We are excited to have our first schedule completed and start circling dates on the calendar," said Houston, who was appointed to lead the ECU program last Dec. 3. "We also embrace the opportunity to compete on a national stage on a Thursday night and are thankful the American Conference will enable us to again show the rest of the country about the pride of Pirate Nation."
Despite playing in eight bowls over the last 13 years, ECU will be vying for a return to postseason play for the first time since 2014 during Houston's initial year guiding the Pirates.
Season tickets will go on sale February 20. For more information, please visit ECU's Ticket Office online or by calling (252) 737-4500.
2019 SCHEDULE NOTABLES
FOR THE RECORD
ECU's 2019 opponents posted a combined 70-77 (.476) record in 2018. The Pirates' four non-conference foes were 20-26 (.435), while the eight AAC squads tallied a collective 50-51 (.495) mark. Two programs had 10 or more wins, including UCF (12) and Cincinnati (11).
WHO WENT BOWLING AND WHERE?
In all, ECU's slate features contests against five teams which advanced to bowl games a year ago. In addition to NC State (TaxSlayer Gator), USF (Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla), Temple (Walk-On's Independence), Cincinnati (Military) and UCF (PlayStation Fiesta) each made postseason appearances last season. Half of ECU's six home games will be against 2018 bowl qualifiers.
IN THE FINAL POLLS
Three of ECU's 2018 opponents were ranked or received votes in college football's two major polls (Associated Press/Amway Coaches) to end the 2018 season - UCF (11/12), Cincinnati (24/23) and NC State (RV/RV). The Knights (8th) were also included on the last College Football Playoff ranking prior to falling to LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.
FIRST-YEAR HEAD COACHES
The Pirates will welcome two first-year head coaches to Bagwell Field and Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in 2019. Mike London was appointed to the top William & Mary football position following the retirement of Jimmye Laycock, while former Northern Illinois HC Rod Carey replaced Geoff Collins at Temple.
ANNUAL ACC BATTLES
The Aug. 31 contest at NC State will represent the 24th-straight year that ECU's schedule has featured at least one opponent from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Pirates have faced the Wolfpack four times since 2010 - winning three of those in-state matchups.
HOMECOMING AND OTHER DESIGNATIONS
Homecoming festivities will be on full display when ECU hosts USF on Oct. 26. Other game-day designations, in chronological order, include Pirate Club Weekend & Faculty/Staff Appreciation Day (Gardner-Webb/Sept. 7), Family Weekend (William & Mary/Sept. 21), Hall of Fame-Letterwinners Day & Military Appreciation Day (Cincinnati/Nov. 2) and Senior Day (Tulsa/Nov. 30). ECU's annual "Colors of the Day" designations will be announced when finalized.
WEST DIVISION FLIP-FLOP
The 2019 campaign will mark the start of a new two-year rotation in the AAC's out-of-division scheduling arrangement as the Pirates will battle Navy, SMU and Tulsa over the next pair of seasons after wrapping up a two-year commitment with contests against Houston, Memphis and Tulane. ECU has produced a combined 4-4 record against the Golden Hurricane (2-1), Mustangs (2-1) and Midshipmen (0-2) since becoming a member of the American Conference in 2014.
STARTING WHERE YOU ENDED
By meeting NC State at Carter-Finley Stadium on Aug. 31, ECU will open a new year (and era) against the same opponent it played in the final game of the previous season - a first for the Pirates since 2002-2003 (Cincinnati), which also featured a coaching change from Steve Logan to John Thompson. The last time ECU had to play "both" contests on the road was in 1968-1969 (at East Tennessee State).
CLOSING IT OUT AT HOME
When the Pirates square off against Tulsa at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Nov. 30, it will mark the first time since 2015 that ECU has closed out the regular season at home (finished on the road in '16/Temple, '17/Memphis and '18/NC State).
AMERICAN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
The American Conference will conduct its championship game on Dec. 7. The title clash pits the winners of the East and West Divisions on the home field of the highest-seeded team.
A PAIR OF BYES
Because of the August start date, ECU will get to benefit from two bye weeks. The first, set for Oct. 12, coincides with the end of the first half of the season and precedes a visit to UCF. The second open week is scheduled for Nov. 16 and breaks up successive road games at SMU and Connecticut.
THURSDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
ECU will head into its Oct. 3 meeting with Temple at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium having split (4-4) its last eight Thursday contests since 2010, which includes an earlier 24-14 setback to the Owls at home in 2015. However, the Pirates will try to make it two in row after routing UCF 44-7 in its last Thursday night encounter later during the 2015 season.
WHAT ABOUT KICKOFF TIMES?
Kickoff times 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.