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The last time East
Carolina athletics director Terry Holland hired a football coach, time
was a luxury. That’s hardly the case this time.
With the announcement
yesterday that Skip Holtz was
leaving the Pirates, Holland has
a very short runway to name a replacement. Holtz’s successor will have,
at most, about two weeks to assemble a staff, evaluate the ECU roster
for needs, and then salvage a recruiting class before National Signing
Day on February 3.
Among the list of
challenges Holland faces is to identify a head coach who fans find
engaging. With Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in the process of a 7,000-seat
expansion, charisma can go a long way towards helping fill the stands.
There also is the looming
possibility that the Big East could be adding new members if the Big Ten
expands as some are speculating.
So Holland can’t afford to
misfire and have the program lose the footing that it gained under
Though Holland has not
made his wish list known — nor will he publicly — there is no shortage
of names that are starting to surface. Most of those names are purely
speculative at this point, though there are some that have floated their
names as potential candidates through back channels.
Here is a look at some of
the more popular names being discussed:
— TOMMY BOWDEN: This
template has worked before: Head coaching experience. Son of a legendary
coach. Offensive background. Comes from a football culture.
The major knock against
Bowden was that his teams underachieved while at Clemson. Another one is
that his results began to dip once Rich Rodriguez left the nest.
There is no denying that
he can recruit, has familiarity with ECU, and truthfully might embrace
coaching in a place where he wouldn’t face fan scrutiny on an hourly
Bowden's credentials and
name recognition would draw plenty of attention to ECU in the short
term, and he’d likely win more than enough to keep the Pirates more than
relevant over the long haul.
— DEREK DOOLEY: Since he’s
a trendy name with almost any search, he’s worth discussing. The fact
that he played at Virginia while Terry Holland was the head basketball
coach there might make some suggest there is a strong relational tie.
Yes he’s young,
charismatic, and the son of a legendary coach, Vince Dooley. But so far
his record — 17-20 — is relatively unimpressive.
Even so he’s considered an
up-and-comer by many in the business. Yet his unfamiliarity with the ECU
terrain might not make him the best fit.
— AL GOLDEN: He won nine
games at Temple. What else needs to be said about him?
If you had to rank the
five toughest jobs in college football prior to Golden’s arrival, Temple
makes that list. Thanks to him, the Owls are no longer an embarrassment,
and that’s an accomplishment that can’t be overstated.
Golden has done it by
emphasizing toughness on defense, which is exactly what ECU rode to
consecutive Conference USA titles.
It’s assumed by many that
he gets one of the first calls from Holland because of their UVa
connection. It’s no secret that Holland has a very good rapport with
Golden, and Golden in many ways meets the criteria of the type of coach
that the ECU AD is said to be seeking.
— JEFF JAGODZINSKI: Like
many openings of late, Jags is already floating his name out for
consideration. And if he gets the nod from Holland, you'd better buckle
your seatbelt and prepare for an emotional ride.
If Holland is looking for
a guy who he believes will give him at least five years of service — and
that is believed to be a criterion high on his list — Coach Jags will
have a tough time selling himself.
He barely unpacked his
boxes in Chestnut Hill before he started looking at NFL openings, even
sacrificing his employment just to get an interview for a job he had no
chance of landing.
Much of his success at
Boston College was tied to Tom O’Brien’s recruits, Steve Logan’s
offense, and Frank Spaziani’s defense. He won’t find any of those at
— MIKE LEACH: Hey, the guy
is fascinated with Pirates. That’s the good news.
He also exiles his wimpy
kids to old rundown sheds. That’s the bad news.
There is some definite
baggage here that would be hard for Holland to overlook, and this might
not be the time for him to make any move that remotely resembles a
gamble. Even if he did, who’s to say that Leach would be interested, or
that his style would even work at ECU?
But, hey, he’s available
and has a pseudo-connection to ECU with former defensive coordinator
Ruffin McNeill. If Holland were to determine that Leach isn't such a
gamble, the fact remains that he's a very astute coach.
Leach seems like a
stretch. OK, a really big one. If there are truly no issues with his
disciplinary practices (and I don't know how you can come to that
conclusion), it wouldn't hurt to ask.
— RICK STOCKSTILL: If you
had to compile a list of elite recruiters in the Southeast, his name
would be on it. We knew this long before he became a successful head
coach. In four years at Middle Tennessee State, he has compiled a 27-23
record and a couple of bowl bids, with his best effort coming with a
10-3 finish this year topped off by a victory over Southern Miss in the
New Orleans Bowl.
His team's 2009
performance is particularly worth noting in that he was dealing
primarily with his own recruits.
Stockstill might be a
tough sell to ECU fans because of
his connection to the forgettable John
Thompson era. As the offensive coordinator during Thompson’s first year, Stockstill’s offense floundered, though much of that can be attributed
to the style of offense he was instructed to run.
It might take some time
warming up to his name, but there is a track record of success with
Stockstill, both on the recruiting trail and in the win column. He knows
the terrain, could probably bring his entire staff, and you could almost
guarantee ECU would receive an upgrade in talent.
Several sources are
insisting that Stockstill is interested in the job. If they are right,
his credentials make him worth considering.