Insights and Observations
Thursday, June 17, 2004
By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner
of Greenville Cable 7
Fresh breeze arrives with new
Steven Ballard has been on the job officially just two
weeks but he is already making a strong impression. Is it possible that the
right man has shown up just in time to turn a miserable two-year episode
First impressions are sometimes right on target. The
problem with them is that they are based on nothing but gut instinct and
that can be dangerous. However, if first impressions mean anything at all,
East Carolina got it right this time when it hired Ballard as the new
Thrust into the job literally from the moment he was
named, Ballard had almost no time to make some key decisions. It was not
fair. The athletic director search was the most visible of all the dangling
issues that Ballard was faced with immediately.
Many people had been adamant about waiting until the
chancellor’s position had been filled to name an AD. I was one of those
people. After the two-year debacle it seemed reasonable and prudent to allow
the new man to build his own team and develop the kind of chemistry with key
personnel that is necessary to lead effectively.
There were those, including some members of the Board
of Trustees and the search committee, who wanted the athletics job filled
prior to the naming of the chancellor. A good reason has never been offered
in my view.
That led to some finger pointing when Ballard went
outside the three finalists to talk to Oklahoma Associate AD Rick Hart. The
truth is that asking Ballard to make a quick decision on such an important
hire before he even unpacked his boxes was asking too much.
Wisely, Ballard has slowed the search down and is doing
what should have been done from the start. He decided to get on campus and
get a better feel for what is needed before moving forward.
More confusion — or good common sense? I believe it is
the right call because it is the call Ballard likely wanted to make from the
Pressure from constituencies from many different camps
made a tough decision even more difficult. Ballard was wise to slow it down.
He clearly had not been comfortable with at least two of the three
finalists. Making a decision while learning the landscape could have been
costly down the road.
It appears he has given Interim AD Nick Floyd the
reigns, at least for now. Floyd appears to be making some large decisions
with Ballard’s blessings, including a recent call on a huge raise for
basketball assistant Greg Herenda to keep him from taking an offer from
The athletic department is in good hands with Floyd.
The new process gives Floyd another chance at showing Ballard he should be
considered for the position permanently. It is clear, however, that Ballard
intends to continue to search outside as well.
The belief is that stability at the top may create new
interest on the part of others around the country and bring forth some new
candidates who might not have been interested before they knew for whom they
would be working.
Ballard has also shown tremendous poise in his efforts
in the last few days to present the case for the Eastern Carolina
Cardiovascular Diseases Institute to the General Assembly.
Five university administrators, including three other
chancellors, were called upon to address the House of Representative’s
Finance and Appropriations Committees on Tuesday in Raleigh.
Ballard clearly stood out as the most personable,
sincere and persuasive in the bunch. To quote a member of the House after
hearing all the speeches: “The new guy from ECU is a class act.”
Further, Ballard hosted a statewide board for The North
Carolina Center for Public Policy Research on Thursday evening at his home
in Greenville. His warmness and charm combined with his infectious laugh
made him the perfect host. The impression made on the group was evident.
On Tuesday there was a lunch break between sessions in
the House, and the entire Greenville contingent made up of university,
hospital, city and business leaders gathered for an informal meal at a
After all orders were placed, Ballard rose and went by
to speak to and shake the hand of every single person (about 30) to thank
them for being in Raleigh to support the Cardiovascular Center on an
I could not help but think that East Carolina finally
has a man in place who understands the role he must play as leader of a
region while also grasping the importance of graciously rallying people to
Perfect? No. Misreading the Rick Hart situation is
still a bit unexplainable, but Ballard’s ability to bounce back and show the
proper leadership response should get him high marks.
It is still a little early to tell exactly who has
moved onto Fifth Street and what his hiring will mean for the long haul.
I second the motion from the General Assembly on
Steve Ballard is a class act.
Heart beat of heart center gets stronger
The efforts of Ballard and others lobbying the General Assembly are paying
off huge for the proposed Cardiovascular Diseases Institute.
Ballard told members of the House on Tuesday they
should move forward immediately and pass this bill for three reasons:
It has been in the planning for more than a decade;
Eastern North Carolina is the nation’s leader in
Because University Health Systems is providing $150
million in private funding for the overall project, the $60 million is a
great investment for the state and wise use of public funds.
That speech paid off late Wednesday afternoon as the
House passed the bill including the ECU project and four other university
projects by a vote of 95-25.
The project still has a ways to go. The House bill
includes provisions to pay off the indebtedness with monies from the Health
and Wellness Trust Fund, originally established with tobacco settlement
money to discourage teen smoking and aid low income senior citizens with
prescription drug costs.
That idea was removed from the bill with an amendment
in the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday but added again with a slightly
different twist on Wednesday in the House Rules Committee. There was a
compromise to leave enough monies in the fund to continue the smoking
cessation and prescription programs.
The fact that it passed the House overwhelmingly does
not give it clear passage into law. There are two huge differences in the
House bill passed Wednesday and the one passed two weeks ago in the Senate.
The House bill not only includes different language
with regard to the retirement of the debt but also funds projects at UNC-Charlotte,
Elizabeth City State and UNC-Asheville.
Senate Leader Marc Basnight wants to fund just the ECU
heart project and the new cancer hospital at UNC-Chapel Hill, contending
they are the two projects that have survived scrutiny from the UNC Board of
Basnight has indicated there is little room for
compromise as the bill will now go to a conference committee which will be
made up of members of both chambers and both parties.
There is still much fussing and horse-trading to be
It appears, however, that ECU will soon know the
outcome of a long fight for funding on a project that will mean much
economically and for the health of eastern North Carolina.
While it is looking pretty good, don’t light the cigar
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02/23/2007 10:13:41 AM