By far the most shocking moment of the 2015-16 coaching carousel, so far, was East Carolina’s abrupt firing of head coach Ruffin McNeill.
McNeill was 42-34 in six seasons leading the Pirates, leading the club to four bowl games, a share of the Conference USA East Division championship in 2012, a 10-win season in 2013 and eight wins a year ago. East Carolina slipped to 5-7 this fall, though four of those seven defeats came by seven points or less and all seven setbacks came to teams playing in bowl games this winter. The Pirates took a step back, sure, but they hadn’t fallen off a cliff.
Beyond that, McNeill was a genuine, well-liked coach who treated people with care and respect.
But it wasn’t enough for East Carolina athletics director Jeff Compher, who cited McNeill’s 8-8 record in two seasons of American Athletic Conference play as reason enough to fire him.
“After delicate evaluation, the decision has been made to move our program in a different direction with new leadership,” Compher said in a statement. “We are appreciative of the hard work, dedication and contributions Coach McNeill and his staff have made to both East Carolina University and our community.”
East Carolina fans, apparently moving beyond denial and anger and on to bargaining in their five stages of grieving the McNeill era, have circulated a petition to re-hire McNeill and fire the man who dismissed him.
The header on the Change.org petition reads:
Yesterday, our Football Coach, Ruffin McNeill, was fired without warning or proper reasoning. Players were informed via text and twitter that their coach had been fired. Ruff has brought the pride of the Pirates back to the university and has been building a strong team. This year was a big rebuilding year so it was tough.
But, this is more than about our Football team. Coach Ruff brought the fans together with the team. We all felt a personal connection that we never had felt before with the football program. And, to top it all off, we fired an ECU Alumni from his own alma mater.
Compher, the AD, seems to have no response that warrants this firing and even major sports networks are asking what the heck Compher was thinking. So is the entire Pirate community.
Bring Ruff back. #FireCompher for no transparency and backbone to do this the right way. One man made a decision for an entire university and it should NOT be that way.
Please sign this petition. As Ruff says, “It’s Pirates helping Pirates. It’s pride. It’s tradition. It’s passion. It’s a group facing adversity, looking it square in the eye, hitting it right in the jaw and saying, `Bring it on. Want some and get some.’ That’s East Carolina to me. That’s what it’s about.”
No matter what, we love Ruff. Bring him back.
There are hundreds and hundreds more, ranging from impassioned to sarcastic.