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Read Henry Hinton's feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum Beth Grant in Bonesville Magazine.

Henry's Highlights
Thursday, October 7, 2004

By Henry Hinton

Negative forces ganging up on J.T.

©2004 Bonesville.net

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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 Thompson?

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 Monday.

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 much.

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 mid-field.

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 go nuts?

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 job.

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

 

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