College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Monday, March 22, 2004
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Focus turns to part two of
Maybe today’s column should be “View from the Northeast” since I was
assigned to cover the N.C. State women in the NCAA Tournament in Bridgeport,
Conn., where there’s still snow on the ground and today’s high is supposed
to be in the 30s.
Kay Yow may be in her 29th year as coach of the Wolfpack women but she
received her undergraduate degree in English from ECU in 1964.
One great thing about the Internet is that one can still keep up with East
Carolina athletics despite being in other areas of the world.
I was trying to figure out who new ECU chancellor Steve Ballard resembled
ever since seeing a picture of him on the Kansas City Star website when it
was announced that he was a candidate for the position several weeks ago. I
think it came to me when I read he was a shortstop at Arizona in college and
captain his senior season on a team that reached the College World Series.
It finally clicked. Baseball. Orel Hersheiser. The former Los Angeles
Dodgers pitcher. That’s who Ballard looks like, at least in pictures I’ve
Whether in fact the resemblance bears out in person is not really important.
I know a number of ECU people are breathing a sigh of relief that the
Pirates’ new CEO does have a background in athletics. Sports are deeply
entrenched in ECU’s identity and Ballard should be able to accentuate that
factor in his administration based on his personal history.
The remaining piece of the puzzle at this point is to get the athletics
director’s position filled. Senior associate AD Nick Floyd has been handling
the job effectively on an interim basis and is among the current candidates
for the position. Sources have indicated that ECU alumnus Jeff Barber, now
director of the Gamecock Club at South Carolina, interviewed very well in
late February and may be the frontrunner among the present field.
Floyd was thought to be a shoo-in for AD if interim chancellor Bill Shelton
had gotten the top position permanently. A number of coaches have expressed
support for Floyd but there is a possibility that the AD search committee
will discuss re-opening the process. Candidates may be identified and
approached. Floyd has already been addressing contingency plans for reduced
revenues from Conference USA with its changing membership, according to a
Now that Ballard has been named, it will remove the unknown factor regarding
to whom potential ADs will report. That, too, could enhance the AD selection
process if it were to be re-visited. Whether re-initiating the AD search
process takes place will probably be Ballard’s call. The process was
originally designed to be at a manageable standpoint when the new chancellor
Ballard is set to officially come aboard before June but will no doubt be
proceeding with transitional aspects of taking the ECU job in the meantime.
Back to the previous point about Ballard. He should appreciate the role of
athletics to a university, given his background. From an athletics
perspective, that makes him a good hire. Credit goes to the chancellor
search committee, the board of trustees and Molly Broad, UNC system
One source said Broad retreated several days to a tropical locale to mull
Shelton also has a background in sports, having been a football play-by-play
announcer at one point in his career and a member of the NCAA presidents
council while at Eastern Michigan. Ballard is younger than Shelton and that
may give him a potentially longer administrative period.
ECU athletics desperately needs solid leadership on a long term basis. At
this point the chancellor hire appears to be a good one for the future of
ECU sports. Maybe Ballard will get another trip to the College World Series
as ECU chancellor.
Spring game coming up
It’s a game week for the ECU football program — the spring game, that is.
The Pirate gridders scrimmaged on Thursday, March 11, and had last week off
for spring break. The ECU coaching staff was working.
“What we did last week, we really studied the scrimmage tape,” said Pirates
coach John Thompson. “We will focus this week on mistakes we made in the
scrimmage. We’ll be repeating a lot of things. Our focus will narrow. We’ll
cut down some reps for some guys and focus on some guys we think can be good
football players for us.”
In terms of the quarterback position, with Noah Brindise coming in as the
new offensive coordinator, rising sophomore James Pinkney has looked the
best in spring workouts thus far.
“We’ll probably give (Pinkney) a little more work,” Thompson said.
There apparently will not be a draft of teams for the spring game on
Saturday by the senior players. That was an interesting element of the first
spring game under Thompson with fullback Vonta Leach and defensive tackle
Damane Duckett talking some junk about who would be serving whom at the
post-spring meal based on the outcome of the Purple-Gold game.
“What’s best for us this year will probably be the first offense and the
second defense on one team, and the second offense and first defense on the
other team,” Thompson said. “That really makes a difference on offense,
especially the offensive line.”
Thompson said Hagen Mason is leading close competition with Hunter Wood to
fill Doug White’s starting spot at center. The ECU coach hopes to simulate
game conditions as much as possible. There will be kickoffs and kickoff
returns but he said the punting element will be restricted.
Game week preparations will include another scrimmage on Wednesday.
“We’ll run early on Monday,” Thompson said. “We’ll have a real good practice
on Tuesday and scrimmage on Wednesday. We’ll correct mistakes from the
scrimmage on Thursday and play Saturday. Hopefully, we can put on a good
Thompson on the 2004 schedule
ECU opens the 2004 football season at West Virginia and plays its first home
game with Wake Forest. After an open date, the Pirates play Cincinnati in
Greenville in their first Conference USA game.
“We traded Miami (Fla.) for open, which was a pretty good trade,” Thompson
said. “We play N.C. State in Charlotte instead of North Carolina at home.
Everything else flip-flops (home and away, compared to 2003). We have an
open date before playing at Southern Miss and we have four games in
“It’s tough. I wish it would lighten up a little.”
Thompson would like to have a non-conference game in which the Pirates were
“I think we need to,” he said.
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02/23/2007 12:45:19 AM