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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
Friday, January 7, 2005

By Henry Hinton

Academic casualty raises worrisome flags

Bonesville Magazine
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Replay the audio archive of Thursday's Talk of The Town with Henry Hinton: Select clip

Skip Holtz’s job just got a little tougher. In fact, it is now tougher than it should be. Starting quarterback James Pinkney has left the university due to poor performance in the classroom.

The scuttlebutt around Greenville prior to Christmas was that Pinkney, East Carolina’s starter for the entire 2004 season, had struggled with grades in the fall semester to the point he might not be admitted for the spring semester.

“On the bubble,” was the answer given from an insider when asked if Pinkney would be around for spring ball.

When grades came in the news finally broke in and around campus… ”Pinkney is ineligible.” Apparently it is worse than that. Remaining eligible is one thing, being ineligible to return to the university for academic performance is another.

We broke the story on Talk 1070's Talk of the Town on Thursday afternoon that Pinkney will not be enrolled when classes start today on campus in Greenville. That makes him ineligible to participate in a few weeks when Coach Holtz takes his first team to the practice fields for spring practice.

That’s a shame. In fact, it’s darn near a tragedy for the program, the fans, the new coaching staff and most especially for the kid, himself.

Rumors have swirled ever since the arrival of John Thompson two years ago that there was friction between the academic counseling office and the head coach. In fact, the quick departure of long-time football counselor Darryl Bryant shortly after Thompson’s arrival was a signal that all was not well in that department.

Under Bryant, the football program had become one of the nation’s best academically. Several commendations, including a designation in the Academic Top 25, were in large part due to Bryant’s dedication to the students, coaches and the greater university.

Dealing with college students, particularly athletes, presents a special challenge for those charged with tutoring them through the rigors of college life. That is why it was especially impressive that virtually no football player was lost to academics during Bryant’s tenure.

The current academic staff not withstanding, there has been a sense around the program that it was a matter of time before Bryant’s loss would be felt. It is now hitting ECU football with a thud.

Deeper questions must be asked, however. The coaching staff receives regular updates from the classroom on athletes. In the case of potentially problem students the reports are normally very frequent, at least weekly.

The dismissal of Thompson two weeks before the end of the season and just a few weeks before final exams must have played a role Pinkney’s demise. One would have to assume that a head coach would have done everything possible to save his star quarterback once trouble emerged.

Thompson’s focus certainly must have taken a giant shift once he had been terminated. It was a somewhat turbulent and busy time for all administrators inside the program.

Do not expect Holtz or anyone inside the university to comment on the Pinkney situation. Federal law under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, known as the Buckley Amendment, prohibits discussion of a player’s academic standing with the media.

It would be a slight possibility for Pinkney to attend summer school, after sitting out a semester, to try and get eligible for the fall. However, even if he was suddenly able to do the work in that short time span, he will have missed the installation of a new offense with a new coaching staff.

So while counting Pinkney completely out would be capricious at this point, there is no doubt that Holtz and the offensive staff will turn their attention to another quarterback named Pinkney.

This time it will be Patrick Pinkney’s job to lose as spring practice begins. This Pinkney was a high school star in Fayetteville and is the son of former Pirate Reggie Pinkney, who played at ECU in the seventies during the Pat Dye years.

Patrick had shoulder surgery this fall after playing in a JV game that created a stir in the local media about his eligibility. The university is applying for a medical red-shirt which, if approved, will give him four more years in spite of his participation this year in that one game.

Others in the program that Holtz may turn to include former New Bern star Devon Drew who also has four years of eligibility left. Patrick Dosh and Kort Shankweiler also have quarterback experience but both have been moved to other positions.

It is also possible that once he took over the program and learned of the potentially tenuous situation surrounding James Pinkney’s academics, Holtz may have started searching the junior college ranks for a quarterback.

At any rate, it will not be easy for anyone to step in and pick up where Pinkney could have. He passed for 2,195 yards in 2004 while connecting on 18 touchdown passes. Pinkney completed 56 per cent of his passes and threw 15 interceptions in 11 games.

So, welcome to ECU Skip. Now, find us a quarterback.

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02/23/2007 10:15:58 AM

 

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