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Henry's Highlights
Thursday, November 11, 2004

By Henry Hinton

Hill getting steeper for Holland

Bonesville Magazine
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©2004 Bonesville.net

When Terry Holland took the job as East Carolina’s athletics director, he must have had no illusions that it would be a cakewalk. Yet, one wonders if he realized how difficult it might become.

Replay Wednesday's Talk of The Town with Henry Hinton: Select clip

A strong argument could be made that the situation has worsened since Holland agreed to steer the Pirate ship. The continued lack of success on the gridiron has translated into falling attendance (read falling revenues).

Add that to the need to try and plot a course for the future (read search for new conference) and scheduling problems (read try to get N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill back to Greenville) and you see the mountain Holland is trying to climb.

At his initial press conference, Holland said that East Carolina had “just gotten a little distracted” and that his objective was to get things back on track.

Distracted might have been too kind.

After the dismissal of the winningest football coach in the school’s history, the escape to Las Vegas of the controversy-prone AD that pulled the trigger, and the forced resignation of a chancellor, the truth is the program was in need of strong leadership.

New chancellor Steve Ballard and Holland have arrived at a time when ECU clearly needs a renewed focus and able guidance. Those who have loved and financed the program to its current level are hoping those two have not arrived too late.

The timing of problems at ECU could not have been worse. In the midst of all the rockiness, a door cracked open with The Big East conference that the Pirates would have certainly been able to walk through just a few years ago.

Not only did the missed opportunity dash current hopes of ECU moving into a BCS conference, it also did significant damage to the remaining league that calls itself Conference USA.

For example, just two short years ago, Marshall made a direct inquiry regarding C-USA membership and was told no. At that time, Marshall was seen as a program with too much academic baggage.

After the departure of Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati, the Thundering Herd has been welcomed with open arms. It still seems odd that the same conference that is admitting Marshall is also adding a Rice program that commands high academic regard. Necessity creates strange bedfellows, I suppose.

With the league going through its growing or expanding pains, Holland must make the non-conference schedule as attractive as possible. That is why he is crusading to have programs from N.C., Virginia and South Carolina fit the Pirates into their schedules.

At the end of the day, it is also a financial concern. It may be hard to believe, considering the current state of affairs, but the Pirates played I-AA William and Mary before a crowd of over 40,000 just three years ago.

Holland is looking for programs to bring that kind of excitement back to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. He points out that two programs in an obvious down cycle sold out in Greenville last October when the Tar Heels came to town.

So, here’s to you Coach Holland. The “distractions” have gotten a little bigger, it seems. Thank you for being willing to try to get the ship back on course.

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02/23/2007 10:14:15 AM

 

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