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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Thursday, February 20, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Offseason drills not ECU football's only current pursuit

©2003 Bonesville.net

The search for an offensive coordinator at East Carolina seems to be like the energizer bunny. It keeps going and going. Pirates coach John Thompson said the emphasis is on finding the right person and he’s not in a hurry.

“We’ve been interviewing,” Thompson said this week, although he declined to share the names of any candidates. “Having everyone else in place, we’re making sure on this last one,” he said. “We’re taking our time and being very particular. It’s an ongoing process and we’re doing it right now. It’s such an important thing for our program, we want to take our time and make sure it’s the right guy.”

The situation is similar to a degree with former coach Steve Logan’s staff except that Logan was offensively oriented. Thompson’s background is on the other side of the ball as defensive coordinator at Florida, Arkansas and Southern Miss. Incidentally, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and Marshall’s Bob Pruett are former Florida defensive coordinators — like Thompson — who have done well since becoming head coaches.

Back to ECU’s pending hire. Logan allowed defensive coordinator Tim Rose virtual control of the defensive unit, including input on the hiring of position coaches and schematic design. Thompson has expressed a desire for a vertical passing game and a power running attack on offense and the position coaches are already in place.

There doesn’t appear to be a lot of creative space for the incoming offensive coordinator and that may have emerged as a sticking point in the ongoing search. There would appear to be a salary available in excess of $100,000 for the key position on the Pirates staff.

Since Noah Brindise was hired as offensive coordinator in January and then backed out for more money from the Washington Redskins to remain their quarterbacks coach, the Pirates may wait until the next guy is signed, sealed, handcuffed to his desk and locked in his office before making an announcement. Just kidding, of course.

The good news is that the situation appeared to have no impact on recruiting and offseason workouts are progressing well in the meantime.

“This is a big recruiting weekend and we have our offseason workouts so hiring an offensive coordinator is the primary focus but it’s not totally what’s going on right now,” Thompson said.

The ECU coach has been impressed with the effort in the 6 a.m. offseason sessions at Minges Coliseum for the returning players.

“They’re busting their tails,” Thompson said. “That’s what the offseason is about. We’re seeing who’s going to push themselves and invest because it’s not a lot of fun to run and jump over bags. The guys have done well. I’ve been pleased with the attitude and work ethic.”

Junior day

ECU has its “Junior Day” for football recruits on Saturday and 75 to 100 high school players from North Carolina and Virginia are expected to be on campus. The prospects will arrive for registration at 9 a.m. and then meet the Pirates coaches.

Assistant athletics director for student development Darrell Bryant will speak to the group and there will be a campus tour. There will be a meal in Todd Dining Hall but the high school players must pay for their own food according to NCAA regulations.

There will be a tour of the spacious new strength and conditioning facilities in the Murphy Center. The prospects can remain for the basketball game with Charlotte if they want.

“It’s a pretty good day,” said ECU running backs coach Jerry McManus. “We get to know them and they get to know us. We let them see the facilities and kind of get the ball rolling for next year. (Recruiting) never stops.”

New format in C-USA hoops

ECU has competed for two seasons in the American Division of Conference USA in basketball, which has its good and bad aspects.

Its good that the most traditionally competitive of the league’s programs — Cincinnati, Louisville and Marquette — have played in Greenville once per season. That obviously helps ticket sales. But it’s also more difficult to compete in the league’s tougher division in terms of qualifying for the league tournament since 12 of ECU’s 16 league games are within the division.

The American Division has had a winning record against the weaker National Division every season since the format was instituted in C-USA.

Division play will be eliminated next season. There will still be 16 conference games. ECU will play three teams home and home — UAB, South Florida and Charlotte. The Pirates will play the remaining 10 teams once each season, alternating home court sites every other season.

“The only negative is that we won’t have Marquette, Cincinnati and Louisville at home every year,” said ECU athletics director Mike Hamrick. “You’ll have them every other year.”

Hamrick said ECU’s home and home foes — UAB, South Florida and Charlotte — were determined by the conference office with input from the league’s television partner, ESPN/ABC.

More graduation figures

ECU comes out pretty strong on its graduation percentages over a six-year period for freshman who enrolled in 1996. Men’s basketball graduated 100 percent. The overall student body average was 54 percent. Student-athletes in general graduated at a rate of 67 percent and football players in particular were at 64 percent.

Football graduation rates at N.C. State (42 percent) and North Carolina (48 percent) were significantly below the rate for the general student body at NCSU (64 percent) and UNC (80 percent).

Hamrick said of the 65 student-athletes at ECU who enrolled in 1996 and exhausted their eligibility, only one failed to receive a degree.

“What you can conclude from that is if you come to ECU and stay in school and exhaust your eligibility, you’re going to graduate — 64 of 65 — that’s unheard of,” Hamrick said.

The ECU athletics director gets bonuses when the graduation rates of athletes exceeds that of the student body in general. Looks like someone will be writing that check.

Temporary seating for football

Hamrick and other ECU officials are addressing the issue of temporary seating at the scoreboard end of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for the attractive home football schedule in the 2003 season. The last time ECU used temporary bleachers was during the 1999 season when a game with N.C. State drew a stadium record crowd of 50,092. There were more bleachers at the west end of the stadium that season but additional seating to that extent has been precluded by the construction of the Murphy Center.

“We’ve got to see if it’s cost effective,” Hamrick said. “Several companies are providing estimates.”

There was seating for about 1,500 at the east end in bleachers in 1999.

“We’ve got to be able to put more in there than that,” Hamrick said.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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02/23/2007 12:40:05 AM
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