GREENVILLE, N.C. - While East Carolina's second season in the American Athletic Conference will feature early road challenges, Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will serve as the Pirates' primary venue beginning in mid-October according to a release of ECU's 2015 football schedule by the league office Thursday.
ECU will open head coach Ruffin McNeill's sixth campaign by playing four of the first six games away from Greenville, including contests against 2014 bowl qualifiers Florida, Navy and BYU. On the back end, the Pirates will host Tulsa, Temple, USF and American co-champion Cincinnati among their last six regular season clashes.
In addition to the Gators and Cougars, East Carolina's eight-game league slate complements other previously announced non-conference home contests against Towson on Sept. 5 and Atlantic Coast Conference member Virginia Tech on Sept. 26.
The American and its primary television partner, ESPN, also have already tabbed three ECU games among its early broadcast selections with a pair of Thursday night battles against Temple (Oct. 22/ESPN or ESPN2) and UCF (Nov. 19/ESPN), and a Friday visit to Connecticut (Oct. 30/ESPNU). Additionally, the Pirates' AAC opener at league newcomer Navy on Sept. 19 has been assigned a 3:30 p.m. kickoff time to accommodate a CBS Sports Network telecast.
After concluding its non-conference schedule with a trip to Provo, Utah to square off against BYU on Oct. 10, East Carolina will return to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium the following week to open a two-game homestand versus Tulsa and Temple, respectively. The Pirates will play at UConn to finish their October schedule before opening November by welcoming USF to Greenville for the first time since a double-overtime thriller in 2003.
East Carolina will enjoy its only bye week of the campaign on Nov. 14 before closing the regular season by facing AAC co-champs UCF and Cincinnati in successive contests. The Pirates and Knights will square off in Orlando in front of a national television audience on Thursday, Nov. 19, while ECU and the Bearcats will meet on Saturday, Nov. 28.
In all, the Pirates' schedule features contests against six bowl qualifiers from 2014. In addition to Florida, which downed ECU 28-20 in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3, BYU (Miami Beach) and Navy (Poinsettia), Virginia Tech (Military), Cincinnati (Military) and UCF (St. Petersburg) all made post-season appearances last year.
"Challenging our program to play at the highest level possible continues to remain a priority and this schedule is reflective of that mindset," McNeill said. "We welcome the opportunity to compete on a national stage and the American Conference has put us in a position, from an exposure standpoint, to show the rest of the country about the resolve and pride of the Pirate Nation."
The American Conference will also introduce a championship game to its scheduling lineup in 2015. The contest, which will be played Saturday, Dec. 5 and televised by either ABC or ESPN, will feature the winners of the East and West Divisions clashing on the home field of the highest-seeded team.
ECU's conference home opener against the Golden Hurricane on Oct. 17 also highlights the school's game-day designation selections as the annual Homecoming event.
The meeting in Gainesville versus the Gators will mark ECU's fifth matchup against a SEC opponent since 2011, while the contest against the Hokies represents the 20th consecutive year that the Pirates have faced off against at least one ACC foe in a season.
The Pirates recorded an 8-5 overall mark and stood tied for second in the American Athletic Conference with a 5-3 ledger in 2014. East Carolina opened the season by winning six of its first seven contests, which included victories over ACC members Virginia Tech and North Carolina to return to the Top 25 polls. ECU also made its eighth bowl appearance in the last nine years, which includes a run of three straight.
Season tickets are on sale now with packages starting as low as $165 each. The priority deadline to order is April 1. Purchases may be made via ECU's Online Ticket Center or by calling the Athletics Ticket Office at (252) 737-4500.
2015 ECU FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 5 - TOWSON (PC/Paint It Purple)
Sept. 12 - at Florida
Sept. 19 - *at Navy - 3:30 p.m. CBSSN
Sept. 26 - VIRGINIA TECH (FW/HOF/Paint It Gold)
Oct. 3 - *at SMU
Oct. 10 - at BYU
Oct. 17 - *TULSA (HC)
Oct. 22 - *TEMPLE - ESPN/ESPN2 (Paint It Black)
Oct. 30 - *at Connecticut - ESPNU
Nov. 7 - *USF (MIL)
Nov. 14 - bye
Nov. 19 - *at UCF - ESPN
Nov. 28 - *CINCINNATI (EA/SD)
Dec. 5 - AAC Championship Game (highest-seed campus site) - ABC/ESPN
Home games in ALL CAPS; *American Athletics Conference game; PC-Pirate Club Weekend, FW-Family Weekend, HOF-Hall of Fame/Letterwinners Day, HC-Homecoming, MIL-Military Appreciation Day, EA-ECU Employee Appreciation Day, SD-Senior Day.