ECU fans give the gift of Pirate football
Though the 4,864 miles between Greenville and Honolulu may prove too daunting an obstacle for many fans to attend this year’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the Tickets for Troops donation initiative will ensure that the Pirates are well represented when they take on the Boise State Broncos in Aloha Stadium on December 23.
ECU has asked Pirate fans unable to attend the bowl game to show their support for Coach Holtz and the team by sending an honorary Pirate in their stead. Through the Tickets for Troops program, game tickets purchased by ECU fans are to be distributed to military personnel who are stationed in Hawaii and unable to travel home for the holidays.
ECU has an allotment of tickets for the game, but distance and expense, coupled with the timing of this year’s bowl game, has prohibited a vast majority of the Pirate Nation from making the trip. “We are going to take about 400 fans to the game,” said Scott Wetherbee, assistant athletics director for ticketing and marketing.
The rest of the allotted tickets will be distributed to military personnel who will sit in the ECU section and cheer for the Pirates.
The idea for the program can be traced back to ECU’s Military Appreciation Day, which has become an annual event each football season at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Every year one home football game is designated as Military Appreciation Day and ECU fans donate specially priced tickets to local military personnel and their immediate families.
ECU is partnering with Conference USA to use the remaining tickets in the university’s allotment to match donations, and International Sports Properties (ISP) will provide 1,000 purple and gold pompons so the honorary Pirates can show their support during the nationally televised game.
According to Wetherbee, one ECU alumnus, an officer in the armed forces stationed in Hawaii, is doing his part by having purple “Tickets for Troops” t-shirts made for the game. Others are encouraging those sitting in the ECU section to wear purple and gold.
In total, 2,706 tickets were donated to military personnel serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the Coast Guard from more than 20 states. “It’s exceeded our expectations,” said Wetherbee.
ECU was able to match the remaining tickets in its allotment (minus tickets for fans attending the game) for a total of 4,500 tickets, more than $180,000 worth.
"Once again, Pirate fans have distinguished themselves as leaders in the spirit of collegiate athletics," East Carolina Athletics Director Terry Holland said in a press release. "While financial support for the 2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is certainly important, the genuine gift of generosity and gratitude that the ECU family has been able to pass along to our heroes in the military is simply priceless. This could not have happened without the cooperation of our colleagues at Conference USA and our friends at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. In addition to these partnerships, I truly appreciate and recognize the hard work of Scott Wetherbee and our staff to make this initiative a reality for many special people."
The program gained attention nationally due to an Associated Press story and mention on ESPN’s popular morning show Mike and Mike in the Morning.
All Pirate fans who donated a ticket will receive a commemorative 2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl ticket in recognition of their donation.