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Friday, December 13, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Covert coaching search fuels speculation

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The big question in the world of East Carolina athletics is who the next football coach will be. Itís mostly a matter of speculation at this point because the search process is going on with a high degree of secrecy.

Sure, the wait is agonizing, but itís actually good for ECU. One need look only as far as neighboring North Carolina for an example of the downside when such business is done more openly.

In basketball, the Tar Heels missed on their top choice, Roy Williams of Kansas, in their last search and wound up with Matt Doherty. In football, Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech was targeted when Carl Torbush was dismissed after the 2000 season but UNC missed there, too, which resulted in the eventual hiring of John Bunting.

That makes the institution look bad when it doesnít get who it wants and ECU is going about its business in a manner that should avoid potential embarrassment.

Coaching candidates are also more unlikely to pursue a position if the process is highly publicized. One of the last things most coaches want is for his programís fans, players and recruits to know is that he is looking elsewhere.

Recall the circumstances surrounding Mack Brownís departure from UNC as a case in point when Brown supposedly assured his players that he was staying in Chapel Hill on the eve of his departure to join the Longhorns.

UNC plays in Greenville for the first time ever next season and the outcome will be impacted by the imminent hire.

One thing the Pirates can claim is that their coaching search is being conducted with more discretion than the one that will have Bunting on the south sideline next October at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The process at ECU is so undercover that itís not for certain whoís actually in charge. There are those saying that chancellor William Muse is doing the search. Itís more likely that athletics director Mike Hamrick is directing the actual process and reporting regularly to Muse, who will have final approval.

The board of trustees, who meet today, will probably be privy to developments as well.

A lot of names have been floating around as potential candidates. One source said some interviews were done Wednesday at the Greenville Hilton but that has not been confirmed.

One candidate who seems to have struck a chord with many in the fan base is former ECU player Kirk Doll. The return of a former player to rally program supporters has been done recently at many ACC programs in the region ó N.C. State, Maryland, Virginia, UNC and Duke.

Helping Dollís candidacy to assume the Pirates helm is a strong resume ó eight years as an assistant head coach at Notre Dame and five previous as Texas A&M outside linebackers coach. The Aggies, incidentally, led the nation in total defense in 1991 and were third in 1993.

Doll spent the 2002 season as assistant head coach at LSU, where he also worked with linebackers.

Dollís situation parallels that of Billy Best, who was considered for the baseball position that eventually went to Keith LeClair. Best was a former ECU player and his resume included the head coaching job at Elon and work as an assistant at N.C. State.

But Best didnít interview well. He had concerns about facilities and he didnít want teaching responsibilities. Heís now a scout for the Atlanta Braves.

The point is that Doll will have to show an enthusiasm that can be translated to the fan base and he will have to show the ability to attract a strong coaching staff. Heís taken seriously as a candidate for the moment but command of the ship is very much undecided. The strength of his candidacy is undetermined because the identity of his competition is uncertain.

The process should be down to a short list for interviews. It is probable that ACC retreads such as Carl Torbush and Mike OíCain can be discounted. Urban Meyer, who was on the staff at Notre Dame with Doll, has moved from Bowling Green to Utah.

It might take more than ECU is willing to invest to pry defensive coordinator Bud Foster away from Virginia Tech. Marshallís Bob Pruett has been mentioned but his age is probably a decisive factor against him and he has baggage in terms of NCAA problems.

Muse will insist on a clean record with the NCAA.

There are numerous coordinators at high profile programs, including Norm Chow of Southern Cal, who may be candidates. They may say the magic words to those who will decide who will get the job.

One bit of advice to candidates and ECU officials ó make sure that the new coach has an accurate resume. These coaching searches are too stressful to be doing it again in a week or two.

Which brings to mind a closing attempt at a bit of humor. Have you heard about George OíLearyís latest resume? It says he won three national championships at Notre Dame.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:57:44 AM
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