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Watch for Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Friday, July 2, 2004

By Al Myatt

Optimism in order after tumultuous 2003-04


The saga of East Carolina athletics during the fiscal year just completed seemed disastrous at times. The Pirates missed the BCS boat in conference realignment, spent most of the year looking for an athletics director and lost 11 games for the first time in football.

The basketball team failed to have a winning record for the seventh straight season and the baseball team came home without reaching the promised land of Omaha.

But there also were many positives to counterbalance the negatives, enough to make Pirates ponder if their tankards were half empty of half full.

The football program showed improvement as the season progressed and numerous Florida recruits were enticed by the opportunity of possible playing time early in their college careers.

New offensive coordinator Noah Brindise got his unit thinking about making plays instead of avoiding mistakes in spring ball.

As the fiscal year progressed, there were even indications of greater inclusiveness by the haughty — and wealthy — BCS.

The basketball team won its first two Conference USA road games and made a late push to get in the field for the C-USA Tournament. With the waiver of the NCAA's "five/eight" scholarship rule, the hoops talent pool deepened late in the recruiting season.

The silver lining to ECU being spurned by the ACC and Big East was that the Pirates should be more competitive in the future with the departure of Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette to the Big East and Charlotte and Saint Louis to the Atlantic 10.

And then there was baseball — numerous school records, including wins (51), home runs (100) and consecutive wins. ECU set a C-USA record for consecutive league wins. The Pirates swept league honors with Ryan Jones named player of the year, Greg Bunn earning pitcher of the year and Randy Mazey capturing the Keith LeClair Award as coach of the year. LeClair continued to be an inspiration to all familiar with his battle against ALS.

The fiscal year just expired was one in which the term "interim" seemingly developed a widespread sense of near permanence. Someone told football coach John Thompson at a gathering of the Raleigh Sports Club during the winter that he was one of three people at ECU whose title wasn't preceded by "interim."

It was an atypical year in terms of leadership. Mike Hamrick vacated the athletics director's position in August and then-chancellor William Muse appointed senior associate AD Nick Floyd as interim AD.

"Who would have believed I would still be doing this 11 months later?" Floyd said earlier this week.

Muse resigned in September after the board of trustees questioned him about a series of administrative improprieties. In stepped William Shelton as interim chancellor. Did "Wild Bill" really ride a motorcycle in a Greenville parade?

Steve Ballard was tapped as chancellor in the spring. A former Arizona shortstop who led the Wildcats to the College World Series in 1970, Ballard is a personable, intelligent, well-spoken and well-intentioned sort on first impression. But he almost had young Rick Hart chosen to move into the AD's office, a move roughly tantamount to elevating a second lieutenant to General of the Army.

The board of trustees managed to head off that potential mistake at the pass and a more thorough AD search process has been designed for a hire crucial to the future of ECU athletics. A consulting firm will be utilized to identify candidates. Ballard will place a premium on experience, leadership, passion for ECU and connections that could optimize future conference affiliation for the Pirates.

What a year it was.

What kind of year is ahead?

Thompson said the football team will be better offensively, defensively and on special teams.

Basketball coach Bill Herrion has closed the talent gap significantly in C-USA.

Mazey has some significant personnel losses to deal with but will display a solid recruiting class in the much-anticipated setting of a new $9 million stadium.

Sequels seldom measure up to their predecessors and in some regards that may be a good thing for 2004-05. But despite the drawbacks, groundwork has been laid that will help enable future success. That may be the enduring legacy of 2003-04.


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02/23/2007 12:45:57 AM

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