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
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
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
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
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
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.