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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 16, 2004

By Al Myatt

Pirate Hall of Famer plugging the dike at Auburn


Former East Carolina baseball player and coach Hal Baird hasn't followed the search for an athletics director at East Carolina in recent months. He has had plenty on his plate at Auburn. The Tigers have managed to even exceed the Pirates in their volume of leadership voids and that has been keeping Baird busy.

Baird's title at Auburn is athletic assistant to the president of the university. The interim president at Auburn is Ed Richardson and he has been pulling the trigger on coaching dismissals like Chuck Connors going up the street in "The Rifleman."

After a botched cloak and dagger attempt by the previous president, William Walker, to supplant Tigers football coach Tommy Tuberville with Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Richardson has axed men's basketball coach Cliff Ellis and baseball coach Steve Renfroe.

Baird had some personal feelings about the dismissal of Renfroe, his former assistant when Baird was baseball coach for the Tigers.

The women's basketball coach retired.

"Three coaching searches," Baird said. "People tell me they've never heard of anything like that."

The Tigers also have been bracing for the results of an investigation by the NCAA into the men's basketball program.

Auburn's athletics director, David Housel, has been reassigned to other duties and Baird has in effect been acting as AD in regard to internal affairs although he's not campaigning for the position on a fulltime basis.

"I'm 55 years old," Baird said. "I'm probably a lot closer to retirement than I am to starting a new career. ... I've made it clear really that I'm not that interested in the permanent position here."

The buzz a couple of years ago when former Auburn president Bill Muse was chancellor at ECU and Pirates AD Mike Hamrick had created a public relations nightmare by agreeing for ECU to play a Friday night football game in conflict with the state high school playoffs was that Baird might return to ECU as Hamrick's replacement.

Baird has a number of qualities that new chancellor Steve Ballard has said he is seeking in an AD. But no one has even contacted Baird, an ECU Hall of Famer, to even determine if he is interested.

"I coached for 25 years and I've been doing this for about four," Baird said. "I'm not in the business for applying for jobs at this stage of the game. I'm sure there are eager, younger and more engaged athletic administrators who would crawl on their hands and knees to Greenville. You never know what happens if somebody calls — but I don't know if that will happen."

Told that Ballard was looking for someone with experience, a passion for ECU athletics, leadership qualities and connections that might benefit ECU in future conference affiliation, Baird said, "That all sounds reasonable to me, an apt job description. Whether all those qualities exist in one individual, that's another story."

Baird himself would seem to fit Ballard's profile pretty well. When he isn't involved in coaching searches or trying to minimize NCAA sanctions, Baird said he still keeps up with the Pirates.

"I've been gone from East Carolina for 20 years but I never fail to follow anything they do," Baird said. "That's the first thing I do — whether it's football, basketball or baseball — is see how ECU did."

Baird said he wrote a letter of reference and made phone calls on behalf of Gamecock Club director Jeff Barber, an ECU alumnus who was an original finalist for the ECU AD job. But then he lost track of the process at ECU as Auburn's state of affairs consumed his time and energy.

The exit of Renfroe, the former baseball coach, was painted as a power play by the interim president that went over Baird's head.

"It wasn't simply a situation with a head coach," Baird said. "He was an assistant for me for 16 years. Obviously there was a very close attachment but it's been blown totally out of proportion. ... Because of the fluid state the athletics department is in, the president has been in control of personnel. ... The baseball coach situation was a personal thing."

The Tigers hired former Auburn and Florida assistant Tom Slater as baseball coach and former North Carolina player Jeff Lebo as men's basketball coach.

"It's in the early stages with Coach Lebo but I've been impressed with his work ethic and his organization and structure," Baird said.

Lebo's dad, Dave, who coached Lebo in high school, is helping his son out at Auburn.

ECU should probably check out a father figure and favorite son rolled into one — Baird — in its expanded AD search. He played at ECU in the early 1970s and was 145-66-1 as Pirates baseball coach for five seasons from 1980 to 1984. He was 634-328 in 16 seasons at Auburn, good for fifth all-time on the SEC career wins list. Everyone above him on that list coached more seasons.

Baird has defied the Peter principle, never rising to a level above his capabilities. Although he hasn't pursued the post at ECU, he's certainly worthy of consideration.

On to some quick hits:

On the baseball front

The news has been good for Pirates baseball coach Randy Mazey after his 2004 club won a school record 51 games and advanced to the Super Regional at South Carolina. On Tuesday his contract was extended two years through the 2008 season and his annual salary was boosted to $100,000.

"It's definitely a statement to the future of the program that everybody feels good about the direction we're headed," Mazey said.

In addition to the new contract terms signed off on by the board of trustees, Mazey said no one in ECU's incoming class has signed a pro contract and construction on the new stadium has moved several days ahead of schedule.

Robinson moves in

Although there has been no official announcement, former Williamston coach Harold Robinson has apparently moved into an office in the Ward Sports Medicine Building and is in the process of assisting football recruiting. Respected across the state for his accomplishments and innovations in 26 years as head coach of the Tigers, Robinson should greatly enhance in-state connections in his new role in high school relations.

"I'm calling all my coaching buddies," Robinson said. "We've got to start getting these great players into Greenville and get this thing turned around. It's a challenge that I'm really looking forward to and I really appreciate Coach (John) Thompson giving me this opportunity."

Emodi leaves

Ike Emodi, who was projected to start at strong side linebacker, will apparently enter a supplemental NFL draft next week after encountering academic difficulties at ECU, according to a report in USA Today.

Emodi had 19 solo stops and 19 assists in 2003 as a junior defensive end. He also led the Pirates in sacks with four. Josh Chilsom is listed as second team on the post spring depth chart at Emodi's projected position. Chilsom was in on 55 total stops last season as a linebacker.

BCS gets another makeover

In the movie "Life" with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, there was a character nicknamed "Can't Get Right." Although the guy proved to be a heckuva baseball player, his mental elevator stopped a level or two below the top floor.

That nickname aptly describes the Bowl Championship Series. Although its has amended its selection process several times, it just can't seem to get right. Another formula for ranking teams for the BCS was released Thursday, putting more weight on the major polls. The phenomenon of the two major polls producing a split national champion was initially a basis for the BCS' self-proclaimed justification for having a title game.

Years later, the selection system has advanced just beyond square one.

Under the new formula, which begins this season, the AP writers' poll, the coaches' poll and a combination of computer rankings will each count for one-third of a team's overall BCS ranking, the Associated Press reported.

Strength of schedule, team record and quality wins, three components used under the old system, have all been eliminated. Had the new system been in place last season, it would have matched LSU and Southern Cal in the title game rather than LSU and Oklahoma.

The AP also stated that in 2001 Miami would have played Oregon instead of Nebraska, which made it over the Ducks despite a late-season 62-36 loss to Colorado that knocked the Cornhuskers out of the Big 12 title picture.

The best way to determine a national champion would be on the field — with a playoff system of conference champions.

Just forget the BCS standings. Their continuous revision only proves they "Can't Get Right."


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02/23/2007 12:46:02 AM

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