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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Friday, April 2, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

ECU, high schools close in on broad alliance

©2004 Bonesville.net

Charlie Adams, the executive director of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, has given East Carolina the opportunity to get further involved in hosting regional high school playoffs.

The NCHSAA already plays its boys basketball Eastern regionals in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum and its girls basketball Eastern regionals at Greenville Rose.

On the table is the prospect of hosting two Eastern football finals at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium next year. Adams and the NCHSAA want a total turnkey job from ECU. That means that ECU personnel handle the event and funding is guaranteed to underwrite the cost of travel, lodging, meals and awards for participating teams. That’s the way it’s been done in the state football finals at North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest.

I haven’t forgotten former UNC football coach Mack Brown stepping out of a doorway of the old fieldhouse at Kenan Stadium to shake hands with Richmond County quarterback Mike Thomas after a state championship football game. It was the kind of recruiting advantage that other programs felt slighted over and Thomas, of course, later played for the Tar Heels.

The chance for a similar recruiting showcase awaits the Pirates.

The NCHSAA also has offered regional baseball games to ECU as well as regional wrestling, volleyball and tennis. The Pirates, Greenville and Pitt County can take all, part or none of the events offered. Adams just wants to know something by April 22. Adams would present any offer made by ECU/Greenville area interests for approval at the NCHSAA board meeting on May 4-5.

Adams met recently with ECU interim athletics director Nick Floyd, Pirate Club executive director Dennis Young, assistant AD Lee Workman and assistant AD J.J. McLamb to discuss the possibilities. Also attending were a number of area business leaders including Henry Hinton, Greenville mayor Don Parrott, Walter Williams, Pirate Club president John Hudson and Marvin Blount.

“Raleigh and Winston-Salem have sports consortiums that underwrite the cost of these events,” said Floyd, who indicated funding would be the key issue.

“Scheduling is also a factor,” said Adams, noting that the NCHSAA is locked in to its playoff dates.

In wrestling, for instance, the use of several local high school gyms would be required.

Adams makes the point that whatever funding is needed up front is compounded in terms of economic return in the community. Two state championship football games in Chapel Hill had an economic impact of $355,000 in Orange County, according to Adams, in terms of money spent at motels, restaurants, shopping centers and service stations. For four state championship basketball games in Chapel Hill, the economic impact was around $1 million.

“I know Greenville can come out very well,” Adams said. “Especially in football — and probably in baseball and wrestling. It gets students on your campus, athletes in your facilities and people in Greenville.”

Adams is offering two Eastern football finals initially but there is the opportunity to grow with three regional finals the following year and four the year after that. Adams would start with two games on a Saturday before the state finals. That could go to one game on Friday night and two on Saturday and eventually one on Friday night and three on Saturday.

Adams, a member of ECU’s athletics hall of fame, would love to see his alma mater get further involved in hosting high school playoff competition. It appears to be a win-win situation all the way around — good exposure for ECU, a good experience for high school athletes and an economic boon to the area.

“I spent probably the happiest five years of my life at East Carolina,” Adams said. “I played [basketball] there. I got two degrees from there. ... East Carolina has been wanting it and we’re laying it out on the table.”

Final football scrimmage

East Carolina football coach John Thompson has spent most of his coaching career as a defensive coordinator but as Pirates head coach he may just be beginning to appreciate a well-conceived offense.

The Pirates held their final spring practice session and scrimmaged on Thursday night.

“It was very, very competitive,” Thompson said. “Our offense came back from being down and showed a lot of heart. James Pinkney and Desmond Robinson, our quarterbacks, played well. It was a good way to end spring. We answered a lot of questions. Our quarterbacks played well.
Our running game was good tonight. (Fullback) Jermarcus Veal played well.

“And we played faster on defense all spring.”

New offensive coordinator Noah Brindise has created an expectation of improvement with a wide-open system. The numbers supported such optimism in the closing scrimmage.

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Veal had four carries for 74 yards. Robert Tillman ran 20 times for 80 yards and Edwin Burke had seven rushes for 50 yards. Pinkney completed 17 of 36 passes for 171 yards. Robinson was 9 of 18 for 112 yards and sophomore Patrick Dosh was 5 of 9 for 40 yards. Maybe the best thing for a unit that was plagued by turnovers during a 1-11 season in 2003 was that there were no interceptions on Thursday night.

The offense was the scrimmage winner by a basketball-like margin of 70-54. The scoring system rewarded the offense for touchdowns, conversions, field goals, first downs and plays over 20 yards. The defense got points by forcing turnovers, punts and sacks.

Spetman interviews

Retired Air Force colonel Randall W. Spetman interviewed with the East Carolina athletics director search committee on Tuesday. Spetman, 51, was AD at the Air Force Academy for eight years before retiring on Jan. 2.

“The search committee gave me an opportunity to answer a very diverse group of questions,” Spetman said. “I felt comfortable and they told me they would get back to me.”

Spetman said he explained the sexual assault scandal that had rocked the academy during his tenure there. Preferential treatment of athletes is an issue that has been investigated at the academy.

“I told them all the details, how I was involved, what went on and was very open about it,” Spetman said of the reported sexual assaults at the academy, some of which reportedly involved athletes. “There weren’t a lot of questions about it, maybe because I was very thorough in explaining the situation.”

Spetman doesn’t appear to be culpable in the sexual assaults at the academy or in the apparently lax manner in which they were initially handled by other administrative personnel.

Spetman listed current Air Force Academy superintendent John Rosa among his references. Efforts to reach Rosa on Thursday were not successful.

Spetman said he chose to retire because he was reporting to the commandant of cadets — a lesser position — in a revised chain of command at the academy rather than the superintendent to whom he had previously reported.

Spetman may also be a candidate for the AD position at South Florida, although he chose not to comment on that.

He did comment on his job performance in eight years as AD at Air Force and feels his experience would benefit ECU.

“I think I’ve shown the ability to take a program to the next level,” said Spetman, who oversaw Air Force’s move to the Mountain West Conference and supervised an athletics budget of about $22 million. “Economically, we did well and continued to grow. I think I am a person of great integrity and would bring that to East Carolina.

“I think I would make the university proud of its athletics programs. We would win in Conference USA, do it the right way and do it with sportsmanship.”

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02/23/2007 12:45:26 AM
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