A Little Southern Conference History

Most Pirate fans are not overly happy about William & Mary being on the schedule. Unfortunately, CUSA dragged its feet for the second consecutive year considering adding an extra conference game, and when the decision was made to stay at seven, the athletic department was unable to lure another Division 1A opponent to keep the minimum goal of five home games.

Like many Division 1AA schools, William & Mary was more than willing to roll into town on short notice for a good payday. But it certainly will not be the first time the Tribe has made the trek from Williamsburg, VA, for a gridiron tilt, although it will be the first such visit since 1983.

For those too young to remember, the Pirates and Tribe used to square off annually as members of the Southern Conference. The conference included both teams from 1965-1976, along with The Citadel, Furman, Richmond, and VMI. In 1977 ECU made the leap to try and grow as a 1A independent while the rest of the Southern Conference opted for Division 1AA. I believe the rest of the aforementioned teams still compete in the Southern Conference for football, along with several others, including regional notables Appalachian State and Western Carolina.

How did ECU fare in its Southern Conference days - Actually, quite well. Among the five teams that were around for all twelve of ECU's years, ECU had the highest winning percentage at .702, followed by Richmond (.683), William & Mary (.617), The Citadel (.488), & Furman (.325). ECU claimed four conference titles, more than anyone else during that span. As for head to head battles with the Tribe, ECU won 11 of the 16 match-ups, with one tie.

Occasionally ECU faithful will hear silly comments such as "Go back to the Southern Conference where you belong" from our westerly neighbors in the state, but in reality, there is no shame to have the Southern Conference in your history. Why, good ole WVU was in the conference for during our first three years. And prior to that, the conference had the following regional Who's Who as members through the years: Maryland, Virginia Tech, Virginia, South Carolina, Clemson, and yes, Duke, Wake Forest, UNC, & NC State. In a nutshell, every 1A-football school from Maryland (less Navy) to South Carolina has been a member of the Southern Conference.

And over the years, the Southern Conference has become one of the strongest in Division 1AA. App State is always a 1AA powerhouse, and Georgia Southern treats the 1AA ranks much like FSU treats its ACC counterparts. Marshall was also very dominant before jumping to 1A back in 1996, where it has won five MAC titles in five years of 1A competition. Still, I am sure that most ECU fans are expecting a cakewalk this weekend against the Tribe. But beware, this conference can play. App State gives Wake Forest fits annually, winning 7 of the last 19 games, hence the series is canceled after this year. Furman embarrassed UNC just two years ago with a goose egg, and when Marshall was still 1AA, the Herd had its subsequent visits to Raleigh canceled when it beat the Pack back in the mid-90's.

So next time someone tries to crack on your Southern (Conference) Heritage, stand proud. Knowing the facts and a little history can go a long way.


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