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Chuck Landon: McNeill was true to roots in low class

Oct. 26, 2010 @ 01:12 AM

There's a very good reason Mike Leach is commentating on college football these days instead of coaching it.

He's a jerk.

Leach was a highly successful coach at Texas Tech, gaining national acclaim for developing an extremely potent offensive scheme that became his calling card.

Yet, he was fired by Texas Tech.

And he wasn't hired by anyone. ... except ESPN.

That's because of Leach's overall arrogance, petulant personality and coaching philosophy that embraced running up scores, but ignored such concepts as winning with class.

Is it any wonder he alienated peers and potential employers alike?

By now, you probably are wondering what any of this has to do with sports in the Tri-State. The answer reared its unsportsmanlike head in Greenville, N.C., Saturday during Marshall's 37-10 loss to East Carolina.

You see, first-year East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeill is a Leach disciple. Not only did McNeill work as Leach's defensive coordinator, he also served as Texas Tech's interim head coach after Leach was dismissed.

As a result, McNeill brought Leach's offensive system -- not to mention a former Texas Tech assistant or two -- with him.

By all accounts, it has been a happier marriage in Greenville than it was in Lubbock.

East Carolina has a 5-2 overall record, including 4-0 in Conference USA. Pirates' fans adore the pass-happy offense so much, there have been two sellout crowds.

So, football life in Greenville is good, right?

Not so fast.

One constant at East Carolina is the athletic programs have conducted themselves with class.

Until Saturday.

That's when everyone learned McNeill also brought Leach's boorish coaching philosophy with him. The basic tenet of that dogma is: We're going to do what we do. It's up to you to stop us.

So, despite leading, 37-10, with 7:28 remaining, McNeill went for it on fourth down. That was classless. Then, when the pass was ruled incomplete, McNeill challenged the play. That also was classless.

Then, on East Carolina's final possession the Pirates completed three passes, including a 26-yarder downfield. Finally, with only 2:29 remaining, East Carolina called timeout, perhaps, to discuss whether to go for it on fourth down.

Classless, classless, classless.

The entire fourth quarter reeked of unsportsmanlike coaching. Imagine having a 20-point lead in basketball, but staying in a full-court press until the final buzzer. Or squeezing home another run in baseball despite leading, 10-0, in the ninth inning.

McNeill did the football equivalent of that.

Marshall and East Carolina have had a classy rivalry and it would be a shame for that to change.

But McNeill took an unsportsmanlike step in that direction Saturday.

JUST RIBBIN': Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson reported his ribs felt good on Monday.

"But they were bad," he quickly added. "I hurt my left ribcage making a throw in practice on the Saturday before the UCF game. I didn't do anything until the game."

After getting a pain-killing injection, Anderson started against UCF. But, then, he was shutdown for the next nine days.

"I didn't practice or do anything," he said, "until the East Carolina game."

Again, Anderson received a pain-killing injection and started the game.

And now?

"They feel good," he said. "I threw on Sunday. I should be able to practice like normal this week."

All ribbing aside.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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