Insights and Observations
Monday, August 15, 2005
By Henry Hinton
In age of cynicism,
redemption lives at ECU
the archives of last week's Talk of the Town
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College football cannot
get here quickly enough for this reporter. If I hear one more word about T.O.
or Ricky Williams, I think I’m going to be sick.
True, the college game
has become more of a business that it should be. Dollars matter more.
Welfare of the student athlete matters less. There is evidence of that all
over the place, particularly in Conference USA — don't get me started.
But let’s be honest. When
you hear a story like the one that will undoubtedly be told ad nauseam about
James Pinkney’s real-life struggles to get back on the field this season, it
is hard to get excited about the kind of punks that are ruining the
Fortunately, close to
home the Carolina Panthers have had some terrific heart-warming stories over
the last few seasons and we’ve been focused on how a little known
quarterback named Jake Delhomme, who came out of NFL Europe, led the
“Cardiac Cats” to the Super Bowl.
Or how the team rallied
around Sam Mills and Mark Fields when they were struck with cancer. The
Panthers have, for the most part, been an exception to the monotonous
professional athlete stereotypes.
But even the upstart
franchise from Charlotte has not been immune. The horrific Ray Carruth
episode comes to mind.
The point, however, is
that we sports fans have come to expect the blatant “me first” attitude of
professional athletes like Terrell Owens and Ricky Williams.
Now, let’s focus on the
so-called purity of the college game. It is an environment where teamwork
still prevails and is generally needed to put wins on the board.
Here at East Carolina we
have seen a healthy dose of all that is good with college athletics and
unfortunately we have also helped expose the dark side.
What is being felt today
is a renewed excitement that only anticipation can provide. What could be
purer than what is unfolding before our very eyes in Greenville?
A program that needs a
second chance. A coach who needs and deserves a second chance. And, yes, a
quarterback that has earned and is going to get his second chance.
No need to focus on the
program’s situation except to say that Terry Holland was right. When he
stood before us last November and said that East Carolina was a “house
divided” he nailed it.
Would it be possible to
be feeling this anticipation and renewed excitement about what will happen
two weeks from this Saturday if Holland had not made the “right” move?
And before we get too
enamored with the James Pinkney comeback story, let’s not forget Skip Holtz
Here is a guy who might
well have been left for dead after a strange turn of events in Columbia the
last two years. There is little question he had been brought to Gamecock
Land to follow his aging father.
In a strange turn of
events that no one seems to want to talk about, Skip’s duties were changed
in his last season with USC. Most observers close to the program felt the
son was the scapegoat for unexplained problems with the offense.
In this case, let’s just
say all’s well that ends well.
Skip was able to convince
Coach Holland that he was the right man for the job and since that time has
seemed to fit into the East Carolina situation perfectly.
There is no doubt that he
wants to put the bittersweet ending in Columbia behind and get onto
rebuilding the image he was starting to embody after being the very
successful head coach at Connecticut for five seasons.
For Skip Holtz, East
Carolina becomes his second chance to let the college football world know he
can get it done outside the shadow of Papa Lou.
Now then… the granddaddy
of all second chances…. the James Pinkney story.
If you still question the
importance of his return, Saturday’s scrimmage should clarify things for
you. Holtz, offensive coordinator Steve Shankweiler and quarterbacks coach
Phil Petty are counting on Pinkney to be the key to Pirate victories this
How can I make that
assumption? The following is a very telling quote from Holtz about Pinkney
after the scrimmage.
“We put a red shirt on
him so that he wouldn't get hit. I think that James
proved how tough he was last year and we wanted him to get a feel for what
was going on."
Carolina can ill afford to get Pinkney hurt.
What a long way the
Delray Beach, Florida, junior has come in just a few weeks.
Bussing tables at Logan’s
Roadhouse must have been a very humbling experience for the young man.
That brings us back to
T.O. in Philly and little Ricky in Miami.
They should think about
second chances, and when they think things aren’t going their way perhaps
they should check in on what is happening here in little ‘ole Greenville,
Second chances are hard
to come by. This season they are a way of life at ECU.
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