NC State hires Ruffin McNeill as special assistant

The former ECU player and coach will serve as an adviser to Dave Doeren

Ruffin McNeill, pictured in 2014 when he was head coach at East Carolina, has named a special assistant to Dave Doeren at NC State. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

Former East Carolina player and coach Ruffin McNeill is joining Dave Doeren’s staff as a special assistant, NC State announced Tuesday.

“I’ve known Ruffin since the beginning of my coaching career,” Doeren said in a press release. “Not only is he one of my closest friends in the profession, but he’s been a mentor to me since I was 24 years old. We’ve crossed paths on the recruiting trail many times over the past 22 years and have been friends and competitors. Having a former head coach on our staff who I can trust and have known for almost my entire career is a huge benefit for me personally, as well as for our entire program.”

The 61-year‑old McNeill, a native of Lumberton, has been a college assistant since the mid‑1980s and was head coach at his alma mater from 2010-15, going 43‑34 — including 10-3 in 2013 — but was controversially fired by ECU athletic director Jeff Compher following a 5-7 season in 2015.

The Pirates have struggled since McNeill’s dismissal, going a combined 13-35 over the four years. In three seasons under McNeill’s replacement, former Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery, the Pirates were 9-27 with three consecutive three-win seasons (one game was coached by interim coach David Blackwell after Montgomery was fired). Under first-year coach Mike Houston last season, East Carolina was 4-8.

McNeill has had several stops as an assistant, including stops at ACC schools Clemson and Virginia, nine years at Texas Tech, two stints at Appalachian State and, most recently, three seasons at Oklahoma, where he was assistant head coach under his former ECU offensive coordinator, Lincoln Riley.

“As a North Carolina native and a former coach at Appalachian State and ECU, Ruffin has great relationships and ties across our state,” Doeren said. “I am looking forward to working with him and want to welcome him and his wife Erlene to the Wolfpack family.”

McNeill was a three-year starter at defensive back and two-time captain at ECU under coach Pat Dye in the late 1970s, helping the Pirates to a Southern Conference title in 1976. He then went into coaching, starting out as an assistant at Lumberton High School from 1980-84 before moving into the college ranks.

“I look forward to being a resource for the entire staff, but especially for Dave,” McNeill said in the release. “I’ve been in that chair and know the pressures that come along with it, so I hope to be a sounding board for him.”