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Raucous crowd expected at East Carolina

By Gene Wang

The Navy football team plays its final true road game on Saturday afternoon against East Carolina, and Midshipmen Coach Ken Niumatalolo spent this week bracing his players for what figures to be a boisterous crowd at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, N.C.

The stadium holds roughly 50,000, and Pirates fans are among some of the most dedicated in the state.They begin tailgating early, sometimes even the night before, and they often make it difficult for opponents to hear the quarterback's cadence. Those who are unable to get tickets pack the bars and restaurants in and around Greenville.

East Carolina set a school record for total attendance last season (292,191) and regular season average attendance (43,191). This season the Pirates are on pace to eclipse those marks.

"I don't know if our guys are ready for what's going to happen there as far as it's going to be from an environment standpoint," Niumatalolo said. "I think it will be a fun place to play from a college standpoint, being in a place where people care about football. It's going to be a lively crowd. Hopefully we'll show up."

East Carolina fans have additional reason to flex their enthusiasm in the wake of news that the Big East is looking to expand to 10 teams in football. The Big East currently has eight teams for football, and East Carolina appears a nice fit, although the school has not been mentioned as a possibility like Villanova, a natural choice because it plays in the conference in basketball and may elevate to division I-A in football.

A move to a BCS conference would generate publicity and revenue for East Carolina, which plays in Conference USA. The conference does not have an automatic tie-in to the BCS, but several teams in Conference USA have been problematic BCS opponents. This season, for instance, East Carolina defeated North Carolina State, 33-27, in overtime on Oct. 16.

The Pirates are 4-0 at home this season and are averaging 42.5 points per game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

"They're playing to continue to stay in the race for their conference and bowl games," Niumatalolo said. "They're going to be highly motivated. We're both coming off loses. Hopefully we'll be motivated, too."

By Gene Wang  | November 5, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Niumatalolo  
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