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Thursday, December 19, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Only Muse has answer to burning question

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©2002 Bonesville.net

The East Carolina community is anxiously waiting to learn the identity of its new football coach. Tennessee running backs coach Woody McCorvey, met with the committee on Wednesday in Greenville.

The committee — which included ECU chancellor William Muse, athletics director Mike Hamrick, senior associate athletics director Nick Floyd, Pirate Club executive president Bob Maynard, board of trustees athletics committee chairman Dan Kinlaw, board of trustees and athletics committee member Mike Kelly, and former ECU and NFL player George Koonce — interviewed a total of six candidates.

The list of candidates was assembled by Hamrick, in consultation with Muse, with the chancellor indicating he will make the final decision.

Chancellor Muse has taken an active role in the search process and he will not rubber stamp the recommendation of the committee or the athletics director.

Muse is credited for hiring Gerry Faust as football coach while president at Akron and for bringing in Terry Bowden while president at Auburn.

Muse has spent time personally with the candidates during the selection process in addition to sitting in for the search committee sessions.

Also interviewed, in addition to McCorvey, have been LSU assistant head coach Kirk Doll, a former ECU player; Paul Rhoads, defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh; John Thompson, defensive coordinator at Florida; Doc Holliday, assistant head coach at N.C. State; and Charlie Strong, defensive coordinator at South Carolina.

It’s a well-known list by now among ECU supporters, the question being who will emerge from it to guide the Pirates football program. Sources indicated that there was no word of a final decision late Wednesday night.

The presence of three defensive coordinators on the interview list might indicate an attempt to address a Pirates unit that was No. 106 among 117 Division I-A teams in total defense with 445.7 yards allowed per game during a 4-8 season in 2002.

Pitt (Rhoads) was No. 11 (293.4 yards), Florida (Thompson) was No. 22 (317.4 yards) and South Carolina (Strong) was No. 46 (351.4 yards). LSU, where Doll works with linebackers, was No. 5 (278.8 yards).

Doll, 51, has had administrative duties in eight years as assistant head coach at Notre Dame and in 2002 at LSU. He is also regarded as a solid recruiter. At present he has been spending time on the recruiting trail as well as preparing the Tigers for a Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl date with Texas.

Holliday, 45, was born in Hurricane, WV, and played linebacker for three years in the mid-1970s for the Mountaineers. He served as an assistant at his alma mater and recruited successfully in the state of Florida before N.C. State coach Chuck Amato brought him to Raleigh prior to the 2000 season. Holliday’s recruiting ability might be a big boost to an ECU program in which the talent level appears to have dropped in recent years.

“The kids have figured out the difference between a BCS school and those that aren’t included,” said former Pirates coach Steve Logan during the 2002 season. Logan seemed resigned to developing players rather than competing for more talented high school prospects as his tenure at ECU drew to a close.

The committee finished the first round of interviews on Wednesday with a segment supporting Thompson, who has been a defensive coordinator at Memphis and Southern Miss in Conference USA. He held the same position at Arkansas before going to Florida.

Another portion of the committee liked Doll. But the important thing is who Muse likes and, as Wednesday approached Thursday, he hadn’t given any public indication of a preference.

Although some felt Muse was leaning toward Doll, it is known that wealthy ECU backer Pete Murphy favors Holliday because of his proven recruiting ability. That’s the same Murphy, from Wallace, NC, whose $2 million donation bought the naming rights for the recently-opened strength and conditioning facility, the Murphy Center.

Some who were trying to get a read on the selection process cautioned against underestimating the influence of the big dollar.

Lacking a clear directive from the search committee, Muse may reopen the search process or call the top candidates back for another round of interviews. The urgency of a decision for the sake of recruiting is minimal. After Saturday, there is a three week dead time when coaches may not contact a prospect except by phone. After that, coaches may make one contact per week with a recruit in the period leading up to signing day on Feb. 5.

Muse may have discreetly made his choice already and the process of talking contract with that selection may be the next step. The circle of those who know the situation is small. Meanwhile, the ECU community must continue to wait.

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02/23/2007 12:57:45 AM
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