College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Monday, October 27, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
John Thompson had a little more adrenaline flowing than
usual after a 36-20 loss to Louisville at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday.
He had seen the Cardinals outscore the Pirates 23-7 in the
fourth quarter — including an apparently unplanned 42-yard run to the end
zone by Louisville reserve T.J. Patterson as time expired.
When they met at midfield after the Conference USA
contest, Thompson and Louisville coach Bobby Petrino exchanged words about
the final seconds which had produced that concluding touchdown. Petrino
asked Thompson why he had called several timeouts in the final seconds and
Thompson said he was just trying to compete.
Down 30-20, the Pirates coach must have been hoping for a
score off a turnover and then maybe a successful onside kick to get
possession for a tying field goal. It was a long shot, for sure, but
Thompson wasn’t apologizing.
“We are going to fight to the end and we are going to call
timeouts ’til the end,” he said. “Our job is to stop them. That’s the bottom
line. ... I’ll coach my team. That’s the only team I can coach. ... I don’t
give a durn how bad we’re behind, we’re not going in with timeouts. Who does
that? If you do that, that’s a give up.”
Petrino had said the late ECU timeouts led to the closing
score. Petrino said he planned to let reserves run one play — because they
had asked to — and then take a knee to run out the clock.
“He was over there calling timeouts,” Petrino said. “As
long as he was calling timeouts, we had to get a first down. Otherwise, if
we take a knee, they get the ball back. So he wasn’t very smart calling
Thompson may have felt the Cardinals were running up the
score. As Petrino headed for his locker room, Thompson said, “I’ll remember
that. That’s fine.”
The teams may meet just one more time in Conference USA if
Louisville heads for the Big East as expected. There may be a little extra
emotion next year at Papa John Stadium based on the coaches’ postgame
episode. Then again, there are no guarantees that they will play. ECU misses
C-USA foes UAB and TCU on this year’s schedule.
Thompson and Petrino have matched up before, with their
most recent encounter being last season when Thompson was defensive
coordinator at Florida and Petrino was offensive coordinator at Auburn. The
Gators pulled out a 30-23 win in overtime in Gainesville.
The coaches’ paths also crossed when Thompson was
defensive coordinator at Southern Miss and Memphis and Petrino was directing
the offense at Louisville.
Thompson’s postgame mood reminded me of that song, “You’re
walking on the fighting side of me.” I’m not sure who did it or if that’s
the right title. Maybe it was Johnny Cash but Thompson had to do his best to
get a grip on his feelings after ECU fell to 1-7 with one of its best
efforts this season.
“These guys are fighters,” Thompson said as he opened his
postgame news conference. He went on to refer to “fighters,” “fought,”
“fight ’em,” “fighting,” “fight” or “battled” an unofficial total of 20
times in his postseason remarks.
Postgame news conferences must be tough on coaches.
They’re not supposed to blame the referees. They don’t want to fault their
own players. They want to be positive and they have to respond to questions
from reporters who generally know less about the game and their programs
than the coaches do. It surely takes great patience and understanding.
Add to it a great desire for your team to have more to
show for its efforts than the assurance of a losing season with no bowl trip
and it can probably be very difficult. It comes at the end of an 80-hour
week and 180 minutes of war. That’s a tough line to walk and no one can
understand it better than the opposing coach. When that moment of
commiseration at midfield with a colleague turns confrontational, it’s
The committee that will direct the search for an athletics
director has been formed. It includes interim chancellor William Shelton and
board of trustees chairman James R. Talton of Raleigh. Prominent donor John
P. Hudson of Durham will represent the booster segment. George Koonce, a
former ECU and NFL player, should provide an athlete’s perspective. The
group also includes board of trustees members Margaret Ward of Burlington
and Steven Showfety of Greensboro.
Former ECU and Auburn baseball coach Hal Baird, now senior
associate athletics director at Auburn, is one possible candidate whose name
keeps coming up. Dave Hart indicated he is secure at Florida State despite
some recent turmoil.
“You’ve got to expect that when you have one of the top
football programs in the country,” Hart said recently.
One source said he doubted ECU alumnus Jeff Barber,
currently in athletics administration at South Carolina, would get serious
The committee should be looking for a proven administrator
with an ability to unite the ECU community and connections to enhance the
Pirates’ pursuit of the most desirable conference affiliation.
It may be January before the position is filled.
Carolinas pecking order
N.C. State still sits atop the rankings of the Division
I-A football programs in the Carolinas, which, incidentally, remain the same
from top to bottom as last week.
STATELINE POWER RANKINGS©
Here’s how the Division I-A teams in the Carolinas stack up:
(1) N.C. State (6-3, 3-2 ACC) ...
Wolfpack gets another challenge from Duke before winning 28-21.
(2) Clemson (5-3, 3-2 ACC) ...
Tigers get a kickoff return for a score and turn back UNC.
(3) South Carolina (5-3, 2-3 SEC)
... Gamecocks get a victory over Vanderbilt, 35-24, on Saturday
(4) Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3 ACC) ...
Deacons fall at Florida State as Bobby Bowden tops Joe Paterno on
(5) North Carolina (1-7, 0-4 ACC)
... Tar Heels come up short as Darian Durant fumbles at goal line.
(6) Duke (2-6, 0-5 ACC) ... First
game under interim coach Ted Roof is competitive.
(7) East Carolina (1-7, 1-3 C-USA)
... John Thompson has a personal homecoming this week at Memphis.
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02/23/2007 12:41:32 AM