ECU alumnus writes book about traveling country to watch Pirate football

Carl Davis’ seats in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium inspired the title of his first book, but it was the trips to away games that provided many of his stories.

Davis, an East Carolina University alumnus who has followed football for 60 years, has written “My View from 20 Rows Up: One Pirate Fan’s Story of ECU Football,” which was published just before Christmas.

Davis and his wife Martha sat near the 50-yard line for more than 30 years as season ticket holders. Not wanting to miss a game, the Davises started traveling to away games in the mid-’90s, logging close to 200,000 miles to watch Pirate football.

East Carolina University alumnus Carl Davis shares ECU football history from watching the Pirates play across the U.S. in a new book.

East Carolina University alumnus Carl Davis shares ECU football history from watching the Pirates play across the U.S. in a new book. (Contributed photo)

“Back then, you had to get in a car and drive, or fly. Those were your two choices. And I wanted to see the game,” he said. “There’s a huge, long list — hundreds of games. We made them mini vacations.”

One season, ECU played Southern Methodist University in Dallas the weekend before a game at Brigham Young. “That week, we went to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole,” Davis said.

Today, viewers can find almost any game on premium or subscription channels or by streaming online. But Davis loves seeing sports live. “It’s just a totally different experience,” he said. “Being there in the cold and rain. Being there with your friends. You’re stuck in some little corner with 500 or 1,000 other fans. The players appreciate that. They understand the lengths we went to to get there.”

The Davises missed only four away games until the pandemic. “It’s been a labor of love,” he said.

Davis has a collection of ticket stubs that predated the switch to digital tickets. The stubs became featured artwork in the book because Davis didn’t have photos from all the games. A few years ago he took over the dining room table and went through his box of stubs, organizing and scanning each by team.

As a kid, Davis’ first football road trip was from his hometown of Hickory to Greenville with his grandfather, a huge Lenoir-Rhyne University supporter. Clarence Stasavich coached there for 15 years before joining the Pirates in 1962.

Davis eventually became a student at ECU, where he majored in sociology and graduated in 1973. He spent his professional career in the radio and television industry, including 14 years as assistant general manager at UNC-TV. He is a member of the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Davis started writing “My View from 20 Rows Up” about five years ago with two things in mind. “First, I was hoping to bring back memories for older Pirates like me. Second, I wanted to share some of the ECU football history with younger folks,” he said. “Since it was published, some people have said it’s a good reference about ECU football.”

The book chapters are organized by opponents followed by superlatives — such as “best stadium” or “best logo” — to try and answer dozens of questions he’s received, followed by a list of Pirate leaders. “These are people you don’t think of on a regular basis who have been important to the program. These are the unsung heroes,” he said.

The foreword was written by the late Jeff Charles, longtime play-by-play announcer of the Pirates. “He was a friend for more than 30 years and I was honored that he agreed to write the foreword,” Davis said.

ECU alumna Stephanie Dicken ’99 designed the book, which is available on Amazon or at UBE and Stadium Sports in Greenville. All proceeds go to an ECU Access Scholarship that Davis and his wife set up in October. The access scholarship program provides $5,000 annually for tuition, fees and books for students who demonstrate academic potential and financial need.

Davis has served as chairman of the ECU Board of Visitors and the ECU Alumni Association Board of Directors and has been a member of the ECU Foundation and ECU Athletics Hall of Fame committee. In 2014, he received the ECU Distinguished Service Award.