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Thursday, July 8, 2004
By Henry Hinton
Pirate ship navigates towards
The second half of 2004 is now officially here. Its
time for a report card on where things stand at East Carolina to see if
second half adjustments need to be made in order to advance the cause.
Exactly one year ago, the university was entering a
most tumultuous time. There were high hopes for a turnaround in football,
but the major story dealt with the shifting sands of college conferences.
Miami had announced it was leaving The Big East for the
Atlantic Coast Conference and Virginia Tech had just pulled off the coup of
the century by manufacturing its own invite through political pressure in
their state legislature.
Who would be the 12th team? That was the major story
one year ago today. Speculation was rampant that Syracuse, Boston College or
possibly even West Virginia would also bolt to join the ACC. There was even
some political grandstanding in our own state that suggested ECU should get
The best play for the Pirates athletics program would
have been to quickly move on filling the void left by some of the Big East
teams. The timing could not have been worse. The university had lost its
athletics director and its chancellor was beginning to have problems of his
own. Controversy seemed to be following everyone involved.
If ever strong leadership was warranted, East Carolina
University needed it at that time. That Louisville, Cincinnati and South
Florida got the nod while ECU was left on the sideline will forever be
considered a setback for the Pirate athletic program.
Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? A lot can
change in 12 months.
There are brighter days ahead. How bright continues to
be the question. A restructured Conference USA continues to be a much better
deal for ECU than its previous positioning. True, it’s not the brass ring.
But if we’ve learned anything it is that the shuffle is never over.
2004 may well be the start of something good.
Certainly, the hiring of Chancellor Steven Ballard appears to be a good
start. Ballard is being well-received and most who meet him get the sense
that his leadership skills can take the university to another level.
John Thompson’s first year as head coach is behind him
and he seems willing to make some strong adjustments of his own. Realizing
the need for change and being willing to do it are part of the learning
process for any coach.
The hiring of Noah Brindise as offensive coordinator
certainly looks like a plus on the surface. Brindise, a Steve Spurrier
disciple, should bring a more wide open approach that features a passing
game more conducive to winning at ECU.
Bill Herrion already has his first victory of the new
season after convincing university administration officials to allow him to
keep his top assistant coach. Greg Herenda was being wooed by Virginia a
month ago. Herrion could ill-afford to lose Herenda at such a crucial
Interim athletic director Nick Floyd, having been given
autonomy by Ballard to make decisions in the department until further
notice, gets an assist on that save by allowing Herrion to increase
Herenda’s compensation package to become more competitive with the UVA
Baseball coach Randy Mazey did not reach the program’s
ultimate goal of getting to Omaha but was oh so close. Mazey’s team had an
amazing season and re-energized the Pirate faithful with another
nationally-ranked finish. When his team was ranked No. 3 in the nation it
was the highest spot in the polls ever for a major sport at ECU.
All in all, it seems like the first half of 2004 gets
high marks. Things are changing for the better and ECU seems to be in a
Losing the conference realignment sweepstakes may still
be the equivalent of reaching for the brass ring and missing it, but ECU may
still be poised to have a bright future. All that can be done now is to
reposition the program as a winner to prepare for the inevitable future
changes in the conference landscape.
Let’s hope the second half of 2004 produces some new
fireworks that keep the university moving in the right direction.
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02/23/2007 10:13:46 AM