Holton Ahlers

ECU sophomore quarterback Holton Ahlers finishing a pass.

It’s that time of year again. All this week, leading up to Saturday’s football game against the University of South Florida, homecoming activities have taken over East Carolina University’s campus.

From parades to plays to colorful banners, homecoming is a time for students to engage with their institution and for alumni to revisit some fond college memories.

On the football field, however, is where most people, both young and old, culminate at the end of the week for what many may consider to be the greatest sport in the world, college football. For the Pirates, Saturday will be doubling as the “Paint It Purple” night inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, a fitting promotion for ECU’s faithful.

“It’s my favorite color,” head football coach Mike Houston said. “We’re excited about being back at home. I would expect a lot of purple here on Saturday. I expect a sea of purple when we get off the busses down here for the Pirate walk. It should be a real exciting week around the game.”

While the Pirates are slated to be two point underdogs at home by ESPN, ECU officials are still projecting a crowd somewhere in the 34,000 range, with the possibility of that number rising with a strong student turnout. As usual, halftime of the football game will be used to crown homecoming king and queen as well as the winners of various other homecoming events staged throughout the week.

Homecoming, of course, goes deeper than just a football game. It is an opportunity for alumni and other figures of the community to come together and interact with the current students and faculty members at the university.

“Coming back home is a huge thing for our alumni base and it’s always fun to have an event each year where you really go above and beyond trying to bring fans,” Eric Ward, director of athletics marketing & fan engagement, said. “The opportunity for alumni who don’t get to come back all the time, to come back this weekend is always fun.”

With all the homecoming festivities this week and a Hall-of-Fame game and Military Appreciation Day next week, Ward indicated that there would be a strong number of former ECU athletes back in Greenville for those activities.

For the football players on the field, however, emphasis has been placed on winning Saturday evening against USF. More so to give the program its first conference win of the season, Houston recognizes the importance to the fans of winning on Saturday.

“Our job is to win the game,” Houston said. “Because if we win, everybody has a great homecoming. If we don’t, then it kind of screws the weekend up so we’ve got to keep our focus on our job.”

Saturday will represent ECU’s third and final themed home football game of the season. On Sept. 21, Dowdy turned to gold for “Paint It Gold” and went black (literally for about 15 minutes) two weeks ago for “Paint It Black” night.

Now, purple will reign supreme inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, as fans of all ages gather to watch their Pirates.

“A lot of people take pride in wearing ECU purple, so we’re looking forward to having a very purple Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium,” Ward said.

Kickoff between USF and ECU is slated for 3:45 p.m.

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