Insights and Observations
Watch for Henry Hinton's
feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and loyal ECU alum
Beth Grant in
Thursday, August 12, 2004
By Henry Hinton
Ballard takes fans to heart in
Replay Henry Hinton's Aug. 2 TALK OF THE TOWN
interview with Chancellor Steve Ballard:
TALK OF THE TOWN with Henry
Hinton and guest U.S. Rep.
GOES ON SALE
• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
• INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
• HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
• STEVE BALLARD:
New Leader Takes Charge
• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
It may be too soon to say new East Carolina Chancellor
Steve Ballard’s handling of the vacant Director of Athletics job will be a
defining moment. But even Ballard, himself, admits to being surprised at how
passionate Pirate fans are about their sports.
When the conversation turned to athletics in a recent
interview on Talk of the Town on Talk 1070 and Cable 7 TV in Greenville,
Ballard jokingly responded, “I don’t want to talk about that.”
When Ballard was hired in March of this year, the
search for a new athletic director was already in full swing. In fact there
was some question of which position would be filled first, the AD or the new
There were some on the university’s Board of Trustees
and search committee who were in favor of bringing in the new athletic
That decision, itself, became a bit of a controversial
debate. As such, Ballard was thrust into the process, which included an
already narrowed field of candidates.
A sentimental favorite for some — former Pirate Club
staffer Jeff Barber and current South Carolina Gamecock Club Director — was
pitched to Ballard as one of the frontrunners.
Interim AD Nick Floyd, who has run the department
admirably since Mike Hamrick’s departure last year, also had a lot of local
Surprisingly, weeks before Ballard even arrived in
Greenville, Oklahoma Associate AD Rick Hart, son of former ECU AD Dave Hart,
was rumored to have been hired by Ballard.
The new ECU chancellor will not talk about how far that
conversation actually got and if Hart had, indeed, been offered the job, but
he is quick to point out that after an outcry of concern from ECU fans
everywhere that he quickly ended discussions with Hart.
“I think I heard from every citizen of North Carolina…
twice,” said Ballard about the Hart affair.
After arriving on the scene in Greenville, however,
Ballard, who was clearly uncomfortable with the timetable and the pool of
candidates, took charge and slowed the search down.
“There were a lot of people doing a lot of things
trying to make the right thing happen,” Ballard said. “(Search Committee)
Chairman Steven Showfety was doing a lot things trying to make it work. But
in retrospect, it was just a little bit out of sequence.
"If I had it to do over, I would try to get us to the
point where we are now, in that we don’t try to have a new chancellor accept
something from a process that he had no input into in from the beginning, no
input into the criteria and no ability to see what consensus had evolved.”
Ballard’s answer was to screen several consultants and
ultimately hire the one he felt would be the best fit for ECU with regard to
the search itself. He settled on a famed, respected figure with a wealth of
experience in college sports named Chuck Neinas.
Ballard is quick to point out that the hiring of Neinas
does not necessarily supersede the work done by the original search
“I’ve talked to every member of that committee and they
did a substantial amount of work,” he noted. “But a chancellor had not been
named when they started and there were concerns about money in the
department. There was a lot of uncertainty and I think that had an affect on
the pool that I inherited in late March.”
Ballard thinks the more stable front ECU is now
presenting with a chancellor on board will create new candidates who might
have seen the Pirate program as too much of a risk before.
“I think it does make a difference when a chancellor is
on board and people get a chance to make some calls to find out who this new
chancellor is, what does he believe in, does he know anything about
athletics, does he believe in quality, is he going to support us if we do
the right thing," Ballard said. "Those are questions serious candidates want
to know and sometimes they just don’t want their name in the pool until they
have the answers to that.”
Ballard says he is already seeing the results of that
“I know from personal calls that I’ve received since I
came," he said, "that there are some people out there who are waiting to see
who the new chancellor was and now they are very interested in ECU.”
As for Rick Hart, Ballard is now willing to admit that
his consideration, whatever the level was last spring, was probably a
“Rick is not a candidate,” said Ballard.
Ballard feels a need to go on to explain more about his
involvement with Hart without confirming or denying that Hart had actually
been offered the job.
“I did not know Rick Hart," he said. "I had never met
Rick Hart until I spent two days on the Oklahoma campus, I think on May 1
and 2. That was the first time I’d ever met him.
“I had never spoken to him even on the phone until
about three weeks prior to that, so I had no personal relationship… although
I did know about him through the athletic department there and two other
people who had worked with him and through other contacts here in North
Carolina. But he is not a candidate. I think that is probably appropriate at
The question of Floyd’s status is still somewhat up in
the air, although Ballard rewarded him with a new contract and a raise
recently. That action was as much to put the interim AD at ease about his
future in case a new person takes the head chair as it was to thank him for
service rendered during a difficult period.
While Ballard says Floyd, who removed his name from
consideration in May, is technically no longer a candidate, he says that
Floyd's performance has earned him a place at the table regardless of what
happens in the search.
“Nick has my complete confidence in the things I have
asked him to do,” says Ballard. “I go to bed at night not worrying a bit
about the thousands of things like institutional control and student success
and whether the right decisions are being made with coaches.
"So Nick is a very, very capable person. East Carolina
is lucky to have him. Whether that ends up being in the first or second
position is yet to be determined, but I would like Nick to be considered and
put his name back in the ring because he has a lot of skills.”
Ballard indicated in the Aug. 2 interview that — with
Neinas now on board — a new AD could be identified in the next 60 days. He
feels Neinas’ connections will make a huge difference in the search and
believes having an announcement in less than two months is feasible.
“I don’t think that’s too aggressive because of the
network and reputation that Chuck Neinas has,” Ballard says. “I think he can
identify some people that no one else here at ECU could identify.
Furthermore, he can do the real due diligence to see if they are the right
fit for ECU. That’s a great benefit. He has enough connections to find out
the right information about candidates.”
After a somewhat rocky start, the new ECU chancellor
now seems comfortable that he has the right process and right assistance in
place to make the right call.
“The timing is not as important as the person we get,
so if we need more time we’ll take it. But I’m optimistic that this process
we’re in now can be fairly short.”
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