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LOOK: East Carolina nails it with pirate-themed scholarship offers

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Aug. 1 is the first day schools can send out official, written scholarship offers to recruits across the country.  This time around, one FBS program set the bar extremely high for the rest of the country.

While most schools send out standard form letters with the team’s logo slapped on the top, East Carolina has taken it to another level with a pirate-themed offer straight of Jack Sparrow’s treasure map playbook.  Burned edges, the paper stained with old coffee grounds?

Yes, please.

That’s just sheer genius right there.  Bravo to the parties responsible, director of player personnel Ethan Johnson and recruiting quality control coordinator Kevin Slattery, for such brilliance.

“It’s another thing we can show to the country some of the special things we are doing here,” Slattery told 247Sports.com. “It’s almost like a mini signing day and we want to make sure we show everybody what we’re capable of. We wanted to do something that really embraced the Pirate theme. That’s something that we’re trying to do a lot this year and get back into that side of things.”

Running of the Bulls: USF the decisive preseason media favorite in AAC

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Charlie Strong may be taking over a new program this fall, but he will do so in a familiar role as preseason favorite. The preseason media poll was released by the American Athletic Conference today, and Strong’s USF Bulls were the runaway favorite to win the conference championship in 2017. USF swept the first-place votes in the AAC East Division and took 26 votes out of 30 to win the conference championship.

Strong returns to the conference where he previously made a name for himself as a head coach, dating back to the conference’s days as the Big East. In Strong’s first season as head coach at Louisville, the Cardinals were picked to finish last in the conference, to which Strong reflected on how he had never been picked to finish last before. Soon enough, Strong, with the help of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, quickly ascended the ranks of the Big East and developed into a top contender in the conference. At USF, Strong once again has one of the top quarterbacks in the conference with Quinton Flowers, and these Bulls are locked and loaded for a run to a conference title. After a disappointing experience with Texas, USF appears to have everything in place for Strong to quickly prove he can still coach, and now the bar has been placed as high as it can within the conference.

UCF is also expected to improve this season, as the Knights were picked second in the division behind the in-state rivals from Tampa. Defending conference champion Temple, with a first-year head coach in Geoff Collins, was picked third in the East Division by the media.

In the West Division, Memphis enters the year as the prohibitive favorite after receiving 22 first-place votes. Houston picked up six votes, and Navy and Tulsa each picked one one of the remaining first-place votes from the media.

AAC East Division

  1. USF (30 first-place votes)
  2. UCF
  3. Temple
  4. Cincinnati
  5. East Carolina
  6. UConn

AAC West Division

  1. Memphis (22)
  2. Houston (6)
  3. Navy (1)
  4. Tulsa (1)
  5. SMU
  6. Tulane

AAC Championship

  1. USF (26)
  2. Houston (2)
  3. Memphis (1)
  4. Navy (1)

As noted by the AAC, the preseason conference favorite has ended the year as the conference champion just once in the four years of the existence of the AAC. Cincinnati was picked as the 2014 preseason favorite and ended the season in a three-way tie with UCF and Memphis. In 2013, Strong’s Louisville team was picked to win the conference, but UCF ended the year as conference champion. Louisville did go 12-1 that season, with the lone loss coming against the Knights, who went on to beat Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

American going all in on Power 6 push

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There are five power conferences in college football, and the American isn’t one of them. Those five leagues each have their own guaranteed tie-ins to New Year’s Six bowls, while the American tussles for one spot with the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt. That’s just the reality of college football.

It hasn’t stopped the AAC from trying to change the reality, though.

The league’s media days are underway in Newport, R.I., Monday, and the league has opted to use its public relations extravaganza to make its “Power 6” push official.

Note the hashtags.

And nothing says official like a golf ball, right?

This all-too-public push has the potential to backfire on the conference in the inevitable event that the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta bowls do not extend yearly, guaranteed invites to the American. (The Rose, Sugar and Orange spots are all taken.)

Then again, if the conference wants to change its station in life, why not push for it? Ask and ye shall receive, right? Didn’t LaVar Ball teach us that if you want your impossible dreams to become real you have to speak them into existence?

Central Florida and Houston have won BCS or New Year’s Six bowl games in the past four seasons. Cincinnati, Navy and Tulsa have been as consistent winners as anyone else in their weight class. SMU has had its moment in the sun and is rising under Chad Morris. Temple nearly took down a good Notre Dame team two years ago, the same season Memphis beat Ole Miss. South Florida enters the fall as likely the odds-on favorite to snare the Group of 5 this season.

The football in the American is good, but, still, it’s hard to argue the AAC is on par with the Power 5 when a third of the conference has watched its coaching roster leave for Power 5 jobs in the past two years. The American, through new hashtags and logos, is going to make that argument.

East Carolina mourns loss of former Pirate Domonique Lennon in fatal shooting

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The extended East Carolina football family is in mourning following the passing of one of their own.

Over the weekend, Domonique Lennon was shot and killed following an incident outside of a Raleigh, NC restaurant. He was just 24 years old.

Witnesses described hearing upwards of 15 gunshots, with police arriving at 9:45 p.m. Friday night. No suspect or suspects are in custody as police continue to investigate the fatal shooting, which they believe involved more than one shooter.

It’s unknown if Lennon was the target or just caught up in the crossfire.

Lennon played defensive back for the Pirates from 2011-15. He played in 26 games his last two seasons with ECU, starting 14 of those contests in 2014.

“East Carolina University, the athletics department and Pirate football program are saddened by the tragic passing of Domonique Lennon,” a statement from the school began. “He made a positive impact on many people during his time as a student-athlete at ECU and earned the respect of both his teammates and coaches. We extend our condolences to Domonique’s family, friends and all those who knew and loved him.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help start a college fund for Lennon’s young son Landon. You can reach it by clicking HERE.

Clemson transfer chooses East Carolina over Michigan, Oregon

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Consider this the first Group of Five upset of Power Five teams for the 2017 season?

Earlier this week, Korrin Wiggins confirmed that he had whittled his list of potential transfer destinations down to four — East Carolina, Maryland, Michigan or Oregon.  On his personal Twitter account Thursday evening, Wiggins confirmed that he had opted to transfer to, to what’s certainly the surprise of some, ECU.

In an interview with TigerNet.com, the North Carolina high school product expounded on his decision.

“Me and my family discussed my decision and decided that it’s time for me to come home,” Wiggins told the Clemson-centric website.”It was hard to turn down those other schools, but the vision [Pirates head coach Scottie Montgomery] has there is something I liked so I’m done with the process.”

Wiggins graduated from Clemson last month, and will be eligible to play for ECU immediately. The 2017 season will be his final year of eligibility.

In 2015, Wiggins started six of the 13 games in which he played. However, a torn ACL in summer camp the following year cost him the entire 2015 season. As a reserve last season, the safety played in seven games. He started one of those contests.

All told, Wiggins played in 32 games before deciding to transfer from the Tigers in mid-May.