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Watch for Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in the 2004 Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Monday, August 16, 2004

By Al Myatt

Outside perceptions complicate Neinas mission


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• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

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• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


One might wonder if Chuck Neinas had any idea what he was getting into.

Neinas can't say a lot about the search process for an athletic director at East Carolina. The former Big Eight commissioner is working as a consultant for the AD search task force assembled by new ECU chancellor Steve Ballard.

"I'm not going to comment on any personnel matters," Neinas said. "I report to Dr. Ballard."

Professionally, Neinas shouldn't comment on the identity of candidates. One purpose of hiring such a headhunter is to ensure discretion in the process. Potential candidates are more likely to show interest in the ECU position if matters are handled privately so as not to jeopardize perceptions of loyalty to present employers.

Otherwise, Neinas was upbeat and cordial in a brief conversation on Saturday. Ballard has expressed a 60-day timetable that would put a new AD in place before the end of September. Finding the right person is the ultimate priority, no matter how long it takes.

"I hope so," Neinas said of the timetable. "That's our goal."

As Neinas screens candidates for presentation, he may be trying to answer as many questions as he is asking. One source familiar with AD personnel nationwide and the dynamics at ECU said candidates' concerns include knowledge of the Ricky Hart deal, awareness of trustee efforts to micromanage the athletics department, the treatment of interim AD Nick Floyd in the hiring process and the pressure of expectations to get the Pirates into the Big East.

Hart, an associate AD at Oklahoma in charge of tickets and merchandising, was Ballard's original choice. Ballard, who began his duties at ECU in late spring, apparently received such a degree of pressure from sources directed by Ricky Hart's father, Dave Hart — the AD at Florida State and former AD at ECU — that Ballard naively committed to bringing the younger Hart on board for $275,000 to $300,000 annually.

It should be noted that former ECU AD Mike Hamrick had an annual base salary of $180,000 after eight years at ECU. Hamrick's departure to Nevada-Las Vegas a year ago created the void that Neinas is seeking to fill.

Sources have said Ricky Hart sold his home in Norman, Okla., and purchased a new suit for his introductory news conference in Greenville before Ballard, responding to negative reaction on his initial selection, called and rescinded the offer. The handling of the AD hiring process at the outset has apparently been a topic of conversation in some college athletics power circles.

The redeeming aspect of Ballard's fiasco with Ricky Hart is that he responded quickly to correct the situation and redefined the ensuing search process with the intent of improving the candidate pool.

Informed candidates for the ECU position also have reservations about a perceived tendency of board of trustees and university power brokers to manipulate athletic department policies.

"It's a question of whether you're reporting to the chancellor or members of the board of trustees," said one Division I-A AD.

A source said Neinas told the task force in an organizational meeting regarding his mission that there were Division I-A ADs interested in the ECU position. Another source indicated that there are sitting ADs in the Big 12 and MAC — apparently one in each league — who have made inquiries about the ECU vacancy. Their interest, however, is apparently based on a desire to escape rocky circumstances at their present institutions.

There also are questions in the AD community about ECU's handling of Floyd's candidacy. Those who perceive Floyd as the natural successor to Hamrick based on his stair-step position at ECU, his background and qualifications wonder why he has been spurned in the selection process.

Floyd's proponents note that he has directed the Pirate ship for a year without running her aground. He did that on his salary as senior associate AD for the better part of a year until Ballard, who assumed the chancellorship at ECU on June 1, adjusted Floyd's compensation that same month to be based on $250,000 annual salary.

Steven Showfety, vice-chairman of the board of trustees and chairman of the initial AD search committee, apparently wants assurances that the next ECU AD can transport the Pirates into the Big East, a tall order in the present state of affairs.

At the moment, Memphis is the C-USA program the Big East football schools would likely first consider if they split from the basketball members. Air transportation considerations as well as current success in football and basketball favor the Tigers over ECU. The Greenville airport obviously lacks the same degree of access as Memphis.

One Big East AD has confided that ECU is not presently in consideration for future Big East membership.

For now and the foreseeable future, the Pirates are in Conference USA, which will undergo a major membership transition for the 2005-06 scholastic year. As a result of that change, C-USA's negotiating position with television interests is expected to be significantly weakened. C-USA will lose its connection to the Fort Worth Bowl with Texas Christian's departure to the Mountain West. There also is doubt within the college football power structure about whether the Liberty Bowl will remain the destination of the C-USA champion.

Those challenging aspects of C-USA's future revenues equate to concerns for those considering the ECU AD position.

ECU will undoubtedly pay Neinas well. Circumstances indicate he will earn that money if he delivers the consensus candidate Dr. Ballard desires.


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02/23/2007 12:46:16 AM

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