Head Football Coach
2010 - Present
When former Pirate defensive back and assistant coach Ruffin McNeill came home three years ago, the return offered a promise of renewed Purple and Gold passion.
Not to mention, plenty of excitement with a plethora of points on offense, a resurgency on the defense side of the ball and more bowl destinations as well.
McNeill, who starred as a four-year letterman in the late 1970s, was appointed East Carolina's 20th head football coach on January 21, 2010 after completing a 10-year stay at Texas Tech.
The Lumberton native has delivered on those pledges during his initial three campaigns, which also marked his 25th, 26th and 27th overall seasons coaching at the collegiate level.
After rewriting the school's offensive record books in 2010 and adding a few more entries a year later, McNeill's efforts on the recruiting trail, dedicated off-season commitment and family approach resulted in a competitive balance that allowed the Pirates to match their highest regular season win total since 1999 last fall.
Perhaps more impressive than ECU's 8-4 overall mark in 2012 was the program's 7-1 Conference USA ledger and divisional co-championship. McNeill rallied the Pirates to five-straight league wins to close out the year, creatively mixing an explosive offensive attack that was sparked by a first-year quarterback and a hard-hitting, 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 40 in both pass offense and fumble recoveries. Stuck in the idle position 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 to earn the school`s sixth post-season appearance in seven years.
In 2010, the self-described football "lifer" 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 America.
Capacity crowds at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium were also treated to a thrilling, high-scoring and prolific spread offensive scheme which literally enjoyed a record-breaking campaign - shattering or at least matching 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-implemented 3-4 scheme. ECU allowed 102.5 fewer yards per game two autumns ago, improving 64 places on the statistical rankings to finish among the top half of all FBS programs. The Pirates also jumped 22 spots in scoring defense by surrendering 11.8 fewer points per contest than a year earlier.
McNeill narrowly missed guiding East Carolina to a sixth consecutive bowl appearance in 2011, but rallied the Pirates to a 4-3 finish after a 1-4 start with a young team that featured 25 first-time starters.
Before returning to his alma mater, McNeill concluded the 2009 season as the Red Raiders' interim head coach by rallying No. 21 Texas Tech to a 41-31 victory over Michigan State at the Valero Alamo Bowl Jan. 2 after the dismissal of Mike Leach.
The 2009 campaign was his 10th season as a member of Leach's staff and second full year as the defensive coordinator. He served the final nine games of 2007 in that role on an interim basis, before taking over officially in 2008. McNeill, who also coached the linebackers, was regarded as one of the most versatile coaches on the staff and also one of the most beloved by the Red Raider football team.
His stamp on the Red Raider defense was apparent in 2008 as the unit helped lead Texas Tech to one of the most memorable seasons in school history. The defense ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference in total defense, fourth in scoring defense and third in pass defense.
McNeill's leadership as special teams coordinator until 2008 also took that unit to a new level. Known as the "Little Engine that Could," current New England Patriot Wes Welker set NCAA records in career punt returns, punt return yards and punt returns for touchdowns.
A charter member of Leach's initial coaching staff in 2000, McNeill began his career at Texas Tech as linebackers coach during the 2000-02 seasons, before taking over defensive tackles and special teams duties in 20003.