East Carolina University has announced a three-year extension of head football coach Ruffin McNeill's contract that will now secure his position through the 2017 season. The new agreement, approved by the University's Board of Trustees and announced by ECU Director of Athletics Jeff Compher Monday, provides a total compensation package of $1.15 million with the ability to earn additional incentives.
McNeill's existing five-year contract, set to expire after the 2014 campaign, has been extended to June 30, 2018.
The modified terms call for a base salary raise from $200,000 to $400,000 beginning July 1, 2013 and other compensation incentives that include bowl participation, conference championship game appearances and titles, academic progress, television show and percentages of season ticket sales and Pirate Club fundraising dollars.
"In my short time here at ECU it is apparent that Coach McNeill is building a football program that will continue to be successful on the field as well as in the classroom and in our community," Compher said. "He has embraced the concept of comprehensive excellence.
"After this season, we will be transitioning from Conference USA into the new American Athletic Conference. This presents many challenges as well as opportunities and I firmly believe that having continuity and stability in our head coach position will help to ensure our short-term and long-term success. This should send a strong message to recruits as well as our season ticket holders that Coach McNeill has our support to guide our program through this important transition."
McNeill was named East Carolina's 20th head football coach on Jan. 21, 2010 and quickly began rewriting the school's offensive record books and adding more bowl destinations to the program's history. Enhancing the excitement of McNeill's return to his alma mater, which includes a three-year scoring average of 31.6 points per game, has been high-water attendance marks at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
In addition to maintaining its hold on Conference USA's top attendance mark for a fifth-straight season, ECU also stood first among all non-automatic qualifying BCS conference member turnstile counts and ranked 35th of all 120 FBS programs nationally with a capacity percentage 94.03 during the 2012 campaign. In all, single-season stadium attendance standards of 300,069 (total) and 50,012 (average) have been established during McNeill's tenure - a time span that also features the top-six single-game draws in East Carolina history.
On the field, the Pirates have made two bowl appearances and enjoyed upper-tier finishes in the Conference USA standings all three years with a combined 11-4 divisional record. In the classroom, his squad's grade point average last fall was the highest ever recorded by the program since ECU implemented a tracking system in 2003.
"I am both excited and humbled to be in this privileged position as the head football coach at East Carolina," McNeill said. "There's a lot of work ahead of us, but knowing our administrative leadership team shares and supports our commitment and vision for the future will allow the progress we've made in all phases of our program to continue. I'm touched and appreciative by this measure of confidence and we're certainly looking forward to the opportunity of consistently competing at a championship level on and off the field."
Perhaps more impressive than ECU's 8-5 overall mark in 2012, which matched the Pirates' highest regular season win total since 1999, was a 7-1 C-USA ledger and divisional co-title. McNeill rallied East Carolina to five-straight league victories to close out the year, using an explosive offensive attack that was sparked by a first-year quarterback and a turnover-producing defense.
McNeill's 2012 edition, young by most standards with 17 juniors and nine sophomores who made starts throughout the season, ranked among the nation's Top 10 in offensive redzone efficiency, fourth down conversion percentage and fewest penalties. With a 3-3 record in early October, the Pirates used a 42.0 scoring average to close the schedule with triumphs in five of the last six games and earn the school's sixth post-season appearance in seven years.
During his head coaching debut in 2010, McNeill guided East Carolina to six wins and qualification for a bowl game, despite inheriting a program which lost 34 lettermen off the previous year's squad - the most of any FBS program in the country.
Capacity crowds at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were introduced to a high-scoring and prolific spread offensive scheme that shattered or at least equaled 29 team or individual standards, including overall touchdowns (62) and points (478).
ECU's offense also ranked among the nation's best statistically - finishing eighth in passing offense, 16th in scoring offense, 25th in total offense, fifth in offensive redzone efficiency and sixth in fourth-down conversion percentage.
While the Pirates remained among the nation's top 30 in many national offensive categories a year later in 2011, McNeill also orchestrated an impressive defensive turnaround with a newly-installed 3-4 scheme. ECU cut its yards allowed per game total down by 102.5 to improve 64 places on the statistical rankings and finish among the top half of all FBS programs.
McNeill narrowly missed guiding East Carolina to a sixth consecutive bowl appearance that season, but rallied the Pirates to a 4-3 finish after a 1-4 start with a young team that featured 25 first-time starters.
A four-year letterwinner at ECU from 1976 to 1979, McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and was the team captain for two seasons. He helped lead the Pirates to the Southern Conference Championship in 1976 and an Independence Bowl berth in 1978 - the school's first in what is recognized as the modern era.
"As a former student-athlete in our football program, he understands the expectations and passion of our fan base," Compher added. "I am extremely happy for Coach McNeill, his family, our assistant coaches, and most of all for our student-athletes. This contract extension is well-deserved and signifies an outstanding commitment to Coach McNeill and his continued leadership of our football program."
McNeill, 54, who has played an active role on coaching staffs which have advanced to 15 bowl games since 1985, officially ended a 10-year position on the Texas Tech defensive staff when he moved to Greenville. Included in his 27 overall seasons at the collegiate level is a one-year stint at East Carolina as defensive line coach in 1992.
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