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View from the 'ville
Thursday, May 10, 2007

By Al Myatt

Expense-gate repercussions still to unfold

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Good and bad, Donnie Thompson has had a high profile as an assistant coach.

Many assistants toil in relative anonymity, but Thompson abandoned his niche beneath the radar in 1993 when he was an assistant at UNC-Chapel Hill. He tackled N.C. State assistant Ted Cain following a 35-14 Tar Heels win in Raleigh.

Any incident in the rivalry between those teams tends to get magnified and memory of that brief encounter has followed both men like a hungry dog.

There apparently had been some bad blood between Thompson and Cain on the recruiting trail. Their differences came to a head when players and coaches were supposed to be shaking hands following the game.

Thompson apparently decided on a physical resolution to what he perceived to be slights by Cain and put a textbook tackle on his stunned Pack counterpart.

Thompson was suspended one game by North Carolina as a result of the incident. He remained on the Tar Heels' staff through 2000.

Thompson's arrest this week and the news release from the university regarding charges that he defrauded East Carolina with fake expense receipts totaling $11,373.70 won't be resolved by a one-game suspension.

Thompson was arrested by ECU police on Tuesday and later released on $10,000 unsecured bond, which is a pretty serious hit out of bounds for a college football coach.

Athletic director Terry Holland indicated in the release that the Pirates will look elsewhere for a defensive line coach. There will be no further comment from ECU officials, according to the release, because it involves a police investigation and state-employed personnel.

Thompson's biographical information has been removed at the link to the Pirate football coaching staff at

Thompson remains on salary, according to the release, but there appears no doubt that ECU has lost a staff member who had an influential quality with recruits in addition to numerous recruiting contacts. His departure obviously means building new relationships with players whom he was recruiting and high school coaches with whom he was a familiar presence.

The defensive line also has been much improved in its performance over the last two years and Thompson's impact should not be underestimated there.

There probably will be some ground lost in recruiting in the transition of bringing in a new D-Line coach, but one reassuring aspect of the circumstances is that Pirate coach Skip Holtz has demonstrated the ability to surround himself with capable assistants from the get-go.

Holtz's abilities in this area were made evident with his initial staff at ECU and his response to a vacancy a few months ago.

The staff appeared to be strengthened when Don Yanowsky went to Boston College as Holtz brought his former colleague Todd Fitch aboard as offensive coordinator. He redefined Steve Shankweiler's focus to the offensive line in the process and assigned Phil Petty to the task of developing more effective play from the tight ends.

Thompson was on the Pirate staff in 1987 and '88 as defensive line coach and he returned to Greenville after serving at Illinois from 2000 to 2004.

It is unfortunate that his indiscretion provided ECU with a negative presence in the news. Blurbs appeared on some national media outlets. It obviously wasn't the kind of attention that Pirate football wants or needs.

The Holtz era has been generally characterized by rebuilding, optimism and good decisions. It is hoped that the reason Thompson apparently did what he did won't be a source of further embarrassment or trouble for ECU, if indeed that information is ever brought to public light.

The Pirates should recover a lot quicker than Thompson. Although he is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the judicial system, Holland's gavel has already fallen. Thompson was likely making six figures at ECU and it's doubtful that his phone will be ringing with offers that substantial in the near future.

Still, if George O'Leary can resurface successfully at Central Florida and Mike Price can make a comeback at Texas-El Paso from their respective mistakes at Notre Dame and Alabama, then some staff may enlist Thompson for the numerous positive aspects that his track record indicates he can bring to the table.

As for the charges he faces regarding fabricated expenses at ECU, he can likely avoid an active sentence by making restitution. He apparently has no history of criminal behavior, which the courts usually view favorably in their considerations. Thompson can likely summon a lot of character witnesses.

A plea bargain, restitution and probation appears a likely scenario. A word of caution to Thompson — comply with probation terms. The system doesn't look favorably upon those who get a break and then fail to honor the agreement. Ask Paris Hilton.

Meanwhile, Holtz has probably already put the wheels in motion to put a dynamic new D-Line coach into Thompson's old office.

This appears to be a bump in the road for the Pirates. It shouldn't put the program in the ditch.

You can also bet that assistant coaches across the country will be punching their calculators overtime to make sure their expense reports are accurate.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

05/10/2007 02:07:31 AM


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