East Carolina Football: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Vandalized

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East Carolina Football: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Vandalized
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

East Carolina University freshman William Banks, 18, has been arrested after he and a group of accomplices vandalized Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium over the weekend, according to a report from WCTI.

The vandalism comes in the wake of ECU’s 42-35 victory over the University of Alabama at Birmingham this past Saturday.

"It is unacceptable. Unacceptable that someone would do that to our field,” said Head Coach Ruffin McNeil. “You know how I would handle that. To the full extent of the law...the full extent of the law.”

Items damaged include food vendor stands, garbage cans and water fountains.

WNCT reported that Banks also drove a Kubota utility vehicle on Bagwell Field, churning up grass and dirt across the midfield logo within the 30-yard lines.

Students are reacting to the news that the hallowed ground of East Carolina Football has been dishonored.

Damage to the stadium is said to be in the range of $35,000, Yahoo! Sports reports.

ECU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities is “aware of the case,” said Director Maggie Olszewska.

ECU has a standard procedure for dealing with students that vandalize university property. Banks will have to meet in front of a board that will determine whether or not he violated the university’s Code of Conduct. If it turns out he did violate the code, appropriate sanctions will be handed down.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
A packed Dowdy-Ficklen in a game against App. State in 2009.

Eastern North Carolina is a rural region with little coverage in terms of sports. The local demographic is usually fans of Washington or Atlanta-based teams, making the sport of college football an important part of the region’s culture.

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is a vehicle for prideful fans in the region to get their weekly dose of college football.

Attendance for East Carolina football games has been one of the best in the sport over the last decade.

A study by The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective ranks ECU top in fan attendance in the Conference USA. In 2010, the school averaged 49,665 fans a game, 99.3 percent of their maximum capacity.

This vandalism affects more than just the students; it also affects those in the area who consider Dowdy-Ficklen a cathedral of sports for eastern North Carolina.

While most forms are totally unacceptable, vandalism has a deep history in college sports. It’s become a sanctioned tradition for the ECU-NC State rivalry.

NC State’s Free Expression Tunnel has been doused in purple and repainted red countless times throughout the years. As a sort of acceptable vandalism, the university permits students and visitors to decorate the pedestrian tunnel to show pride in their team and university.

The oldest tradition of vandalism in college football goes back to the days of the Rutgers-Princeton rivalry.

In the late nineteenth century, Rutgers students stole a cannon from Princeton’s campus, sparking the historic rivalry. The cannon was later cemented in the ground to avoid future thefts.

Throughout the rivalry years, the cannon was painted by Rutgers students in an acceptable, but still illegal, form of expressive vandalism.

What happened this weekend in Greenville was not expressive or acceptable, it was immature and hurtful.

Dowdy-Ficklen stadium was renovated in 2009 to include a new student section in the east end-zone. The expansion increased stadium capacity from 40,000 to 50,000 at a cost of upwards of $20 million.

Funding for the renovations, like with most renovations in college football, comes from wealthy donors and alumni who want to give a little (or a lot) back to their alma mater.

Donors for ECU and all across college football put a lot of time, money and pride into their schools. The vandalism that occurred this weekend was unacceptable, enough to bring tears to some students and longtime Pirates supporters.

ECU is set to play Navy on Saturday at 3:30.

Last weekend’s vandalism should have very little affect on the energy of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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