Insights and Observations
Read Henry Hinton's
feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum
Beth Grant in
Thursday, October 7, 2004
By Henry Hinton
Negative forces ganging up on
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• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
• INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
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• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
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• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
So, you think you’ve had a bad week. Have you stopped
for one minute to wonder what it would be like to trade places with John
Division I-A college football coaches make a lot of
money. Trust me, they earn it. It is weeks like John Thompson is having that
may make them question if it is worth it.
When the new boss comes to town, you need to have
things in order. No doubt Coach Thompson was hoping to have things under
control when Terry Holland officially took over as Director of Athletics on
In spite of losing football games, it would be
important to show the new AD that things are well in hand and the program is
moving in the right direction.
It would be enough to just have to deal with a 59-7
drubbing at the hands of a conference team, let alone the frustrated fans
and fickle local media.
In addition to that, Thompson’s program has been under
attack from the Louisville media and seemingly the Louisville team for the
way it conducted itself on Saturday before the game.
Reports of Pirate players acting inappropriately have
run the gamut in Louisville this week. The Louisville media has alleged
everything from a spitting incident to trash talking before the game.
There is even a report that ECU players disrupted a
Cardinal pre-game ritual and that the Pirates were stomping on the
Louisville bird logo at mid-field. Heaven forbid!
Methinks our fine feathered friends doth protest too
Is pre-game bravado anything new for college football?
No one can condone spitting, but that particular
situation has not been confirmed by anyone other than a few players who
were, themselves, obviously tied up in the pre-game fracas.
It is hard to ignore the fact that both head coaches,
in an effort to motivate their respective teams, had obviously reminded
their players of last year’s finish in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when Louisville
coach Bobby Petrino and Thompson concluded the day with an ugly scene at
Petrino, apparently ready to get to the charter flight,
thought Thompson was being ridiculous to call timeouts when the outcome of
the game had been decided. Thompson, on the other hand, said he was teaching
his team to never quit.
Was that really a reason for two football programs to
The ECU-Louisville discord goes back further than that,
of course. Pirate faithful have not forgotten that it was the administration
at U of L that fought to keep ECU out of Conference USA. In fact, that
effort succeeded when the league was first formed.
It was only an ultimatum from other schools that forced
Louisville to agree to accept ECU. That is ancient history now that the
Cardinals are moving on to the Big East next year.
Thompson wanted to put the whole incident to rest and
made an attempt to do so on Tuesday at his weekly media luncheon by
addressing what happened and how some are portraying the pre-game events. He
followed by saying he stands by his players’ sportsmanship and does not feel
they acted inappropriately.
The words had hardly gotten out of his mouth when
another crisis hit the program. After appearing at the media event on
Tuesday with Thompson, star receiver Damarcus Fox was suspended by the end
of the day.
Rumors persist around the program that Fox will not
return and was found guilty of a serious team violation. Fox
has been quoted as saying it was a
mutual decision after he and Thompson could not see eye to eye on things.
Of course, there has to be more to the story than that.
Whatever it is, Thompson will not be able to comment publicly, perhaps even
for legal reasons.
All of this has been a huge distraction as the Pirates
prepare for a homecoming game with Tulane they desperately need to win. It
is a winnable game for sure, but even great football teams have focus
problems when off the field problems surface.
And poor Thompson…. this is all happening on Holland’s
first week in town. You have to feel for the guy.
Keep in mind, this is the same Terry Holland who stated
in his initial press conference that image is so important that he will not
allow student athletes to wear hats inside the building.
In fairness, the Louisville situation seems to have
been blown way out of proportion. Why was Petrino so mad? Because of some
timeouts called last year?
It was obvious that Thompson’s team was struggling in
the second half last weekend and that Petrino intended to make a statement.
Embarrassing the guy on the other sideline tends to come back and haunt
coaches at some point down the road. Thompson won’t forget that one.
As for the current state of the program, frustrated
Pirate fans need only to look less than 100 miles to the west when Mack
Brown came into Chapel Hill. He was 1-10 his first two seasons. It was just
a few years later that they were begging him not to leave to take the Texas
Will Thompson have a similar fate in Greenville? It is
too early to tell. However, people need to be fair and consider the true
facts before jumping to conclusions.
This week has been a tough one. As most coaches
believe, however, there is nothing wrong that a win will not cure.
The Pirates have that chance Saturday.
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02/23/2007 10:14:08 AM