In any case, there's no question the feelings are familiar in Greenville after an 0-2 start that includes a lopsided home loss to FCS James Madison and a no-contest road loss at West Virginia, with players pointing fingers at each other and the defensive coordinator summarily fired Sunday in a spasm of desperation.
The disarray resembles, in too many ways, the bottoming-out season of 2004, after which John Thompson was fired with a career record of 3-20. It took some miracle work from Skip Holtz to resurrect the program into what it was as recently as three years ago, under Ruffin McNeill.
Scottie Montgomery is 3-11 early in his second season, with the stunning upset of bowl-bound N.C. State last season his first win and only notable triumph so far. Up next? Sixteenth-ranked Virginia Tech on Saturday. In years past, the Pirates would have been salivating at the prospect of getting a shot at the Hokies in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. This year, they're a three-touchdown underdog. The line may be generous.
Needless to say, things are not going well at all for the Pirates down in Greenville. I made the connection earlier, but it bears repeating here that there are some major similarities between what is happening in Greenville now and what happened to Virginia Tech basketball before Buzz. That is, while catering toward a minority of influential boosters who had inflated opinions on the level a program should be playing, both shockingly fired a coach who most outsiders would immediately argue had the program playing above its means. Their replacements came in and quickly proved that they were completely in over their heads. Their remaining talent alone allowed one early major upset (VT over #8 Ok St, ECU over NCSU) but eventually reality sunk in and the losses started pouting in. And even worse, recruiting bottomed out to the point where the depth on each allowed unbelievable mismatches all over the field or court.
The problem in ECU is that, at least for now, there is no Whit Babcock to come in and rescue them from the doldrums. Their current AD seems to be in there for the long haul, and even if that does happen, they're still in a spot where they're only playing in the AAC, where they will have trouble bringing in legitimate up and coming coaches, having to settle for coordinators who would like a chance to prove themselves at a lower school before jumping back up to the Power 5. Unfortunately, with the direction they're taking, they probably won't even get their pick of the litter there, as any rebuild would likely take far longer than those coordinators would be willing to wait.
The double edged sword here for us is that their program's fall could impact us in a variety of ways. First, if they are this truly awful for a while, whatever little prestige was there to begin with will vanish and wins will be forgotten. Some (myself included) would say this was always the case, so to have them as a sure win through the duration might not be the worst thing. However, depending on how far they fall, they could represent a legitimate anchor to our Strength of Schedule in the coming years, which might be problematic should we find our way into the playoff discussion. With that said, there should be enough tough matchups coming up to offset.