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View from the East
Monday, May 17, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Ballard's first shot appears to be air ball


Rick Hart?

If he really is incoming chancellor Steve Ballard’s choice for East Carolina’s athletics director, there may be some questions.

Like, what is Ballard thinking?

Given several candidates with more experience, why would he go with a lower level administrator?

Hart has never hired a coach, never scheduled a football game and never administered a $17 million athletics budget. He has no advanced degree. He’s essentially overseen T-shirt and ticket sales at Oklahoma.

True, his dad, Dave Jr., was ECU’s AD prior to Mike Hamrick. But remember — Frank Sinatra Jr. couldn’t sing and Pete Rose Jr. struggled for years in the minor leagues. Bloodlines are no guarantee.

He got an interview from the search committee, but that was regarded as more of a courtesy to his father. Rick Hart’s age and lack of experience ruled him out in the collective evaluations of the 14 members of the search committee. There was a feeling among some who liked his enthusiasm that perhaps he would someday be AD timber but the selection committee determined that it wouldn’t be now — not at ECU.

The Pirates need leadership, not someone who needs on the job seasoning.

To some there’s also the issue of Hart’s undergraduate degree from North Carolina. He grew up in Greenville when his dad was directing the ECU program and he chose not to be a Pirate. He worked at UNC before going to Oklahoma. I just remember when Todd Turner, a UNC grad, was AD at N.C. State, there were some Wolfpack supporters who couldn’t get past the fact that their top athletics administrator was a Tar Heel.

Maybe someone should explain to Ballard, who played baseball at Arizona, that his course of action might be like the Wildcats hiring somebody from Arizona State to be in charge of their sports programs.

One source said he had heard weeks ago that Hart was going to be the guy, which means that Ballard may have made up his mind about the time he issued a release saying he was going to take more time to evaluate candidates.

Something is strange, fishy sort of strange here. Another source indicated that Hart’s compensation demands, including perks and incentives, are in the $300,000 range, which is about 50 percent above what the last AD was making. That, of course, was Mike Hamrick, who came in with AD experience at Arkansas-Little Rock, and was on the job for eight years at ECU.

There are people in the Ward Sports Medicine Building to whom Ricky Hart used to say, “Yes sir.” Now he may be in line for the highest office in the building. Difficult to fathom.

Ballard, who supposedly has a reputation for astute hires, may be getting off on the wrong foot with some influential ECU people — some on the AD selection committee, some on the board of trustees and some who give the Pirate Club big bucks.

It would have been a promotion for the young Hart to have made him senior associate AD — Nick Floyd’s job the last three years — had Floyd gotten the AD job that he has handled effectively the last nine months. And Floyd has roughly 20 years of higher level experience than Hart. Floyd’s withdrawal from consideration indicates that a decision has been made.

The reaction to the fact that it may be Hart has resulted in little excitement, a lot of bewilderment and even a degree of anger. There may be a move to block approval of such a hire by the board of trustees.

As for the finalists determined by the search committee, one wonders how long Floyd will be inclined to remain at ECU. Jeff Barber can rightfully feel disillusioned at the course his alma mater is taking. Randall Spetman had eight years of experience as an AD at Air Force.

It’s a stunning choice. One wonders what phone calls were made and what deals were struck to bring about such a result.

Is there a statute of limitations on nepotism?

There are literally hundreds of people in college athletics administration more qualified than Hart.

The board of trustees may very well have to act in the best interests of the university and reject Ballard’s choice like Moussa Badiane swatting a weak layup into the third row. This isn’t a situation where the board should politely defer. The future of ECU athletics is too important to be decided solely by someone whose principal eastern North Carolina experience amounts to hanging out a few days at the beach.

At the very least, Ballard needs to explain what he sees in Hart that a room full of ECU people did not.

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02/23/2007 12:45:41 AM

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