Insights and Observations
Monday, March 27, 2006
By Henry Hinton
Ed Emory: Once a Pirate,
always a Pirate
People who were around
East Carolina in the ‘80's all have an opinion of
Ed Emory. Some believe his years in
Greenville were some of the best every for the football program. Others
disagree. Emory’s love for his alma mater, however, has never been in
Emory took over the
program in 1980 after a high profile era featuring the legendary Pat Dye.
Following in the footsteps of Dye would be hard in many ways. Not only had
the program been use to winning 8 and 9 games each year, but Dye’s
controversial departure from ECU had split the fan base.
Add to that the fact that
East Carolina was trying to live as a Division I independent in an era when
it cost a lot of money to be competitive. Oh, and one other thing… the
program was nearly $2 million in debt.
This past week, Emory
returned to Greenville to attend the funeral of his friend and former East
Henry VanSant. The former Pirate head
coach and current Richmond County Senior High School coach stopped by Talk
1070 and Cable 7 for a Thursday morning Talk of the Town interview.
The careers of Emory and
VanSant had intersected in the late 'fifties. Henry played for the Pirates
from 1957 to 1961 after a military career in the paratroopers. Emory, who is
younger although he won’t say by how much, roomed with VanSant and
graduated from East Carolina in 1960.
Henry dotted all his I’s
and crossed all his T’s”, Emory said. “I was what you might call ‘high
risk.’ He would get up every morning and shine his shoes. I would get up
every morning and put on a different pair.”
Emory, who became head
coach of the ECU program in 1980, says he almost returned to Greenville
years before that when Clarence Stasavich ran the program.
LIVE THIS A.M.
in on the radio or catch the live Internet feed of
today's Talk of the Town with
ED EMORY ARCHIVE:
last Thursday's Talk of the Town, which featured
a guest appearance by East Carolina Hall of
Famer, prep coaching legend and former head
coach of the Pirates Ed Emory:
“I knew Stas back then,”
said Emory. “He came and spoke to my banquet when I was coaching high school
in Wadesboro in ’65. He offered me the freshman job here for $6,000. I had
two children and I told him, 'Coach Stas, I can’t afford that. I’m making 12
now.' The only person I know who could work for 6,000 was Bill Cain so he
took the job. He’s probably got more cash money than anybody in North
These days, in spite of
badly needed knee replacements on both knees, Emory continues his first love
of coaching. In six years at Richmond County, his Raiders have posted an
incredible 66-5 record and turn out superstar Division 1 players year in and
“We’ve been very
fortunate but in Richmond County being 14-1 is not very good,” Emory laughs.
“Last year I really screwed up and I was 13-1. It’s a football town. Great
support and great fans. We get about 8-10,000 people every Friday night.”
Joining Emory on his
Richmond County coaching staff are former Pirate players Paul Hoggard, who
played two years for both Art Baker and Emory, and Jake Eddings, who played
for Steve Logan.
Emory will be the head
coach of the North Carolina Shrine Bowl Team this coming season. He says his
timing for that duty is one year off since his star running back, Norman
Whitley, was the MVP in this year’s game.
After a long recruiting
saga, Whitley will play at ECU for Skip Holtz this fall.
“Norman is a great player
and a good kid,” said Emory. “We never had any problems with Norman and he
had a 3.2 average. But he’s a running back so you know he’s a little
took some odd turns before ECU landed him. According to Coach Emory, he was
a hot property early, particularly after his junior season.
“Everybody was after
him,” he said. “At first he wanted to go to Michigan or Ohio State. They
recruited him hard. In fact everybody in the country wanted him…maybe 75 to
a hundred schools were after him.
“He turned all of them
down. He turned a scholarship to North Carolina down in September and John
Bunting told him when we have our four running backs we’re not going to
recruit anybody else. Norman told him he wasn’t going to commit until
Holding out appears to
have limited Whitley’s options, according to Emory. By February, East
Carolina was one of the few remaining teams with an interest.
“He probably wanted to be
a Pirate but he just didn’t know it at the time,” Emory chuckled. “Because
he would come into my office every day and see my football jersey in a frame
that the program gave me when Logan was here. I have a lot of other pictures
from East Carolina in my office so he’s seen nothing but East Carolina for
the last three years.”
Emory had a hand in
another great Raider player landing in Greenville. Jamar Bryant, who played
quarterback for Emory, will hopefully be eligible this fall for ECU after
originally signing with Georgia. [Editor's note: This paragraph has been
revised from its original version. The word "finally" has been replaced by
Bryant will most likely line up as a wide
receiver for ECU.
during his days
as ECU's head coach.
“Jamar’s one of the
greatest players I ever coached,” Emory said. “I’m glad he’s here.”
As for Emory himself, he
says he is not harboring ill feelings about his controversial dismissal from
ECU in the mid-eighties. However, when pushed on the subject he says there
are three particular individuals who orchestrated his downfall.
Emory’s best teams were
in 1982 (7-4) and 1983 (8-3), after which he says he was offered the head
coaching job at Miami and turned it down to stay with his alma mater. In
spite of that, Emory feels ECU's director of athletics, board of trustees
chairman and chancellor at the time did not return the loyalty.
“I never had any hard
feelings for East Carolina University or the people… nobody but (AD) Dr.
(Ken) Karr, (trustees chairman) Tom Bennett and (chancellor) John Howell,”
Emory said. “Kerr is the person who did to me what happened.
“The year before they
begged me and begged me to re-sign my contract. John Howell sent (assistant
to the chancellor) Dick Blake over to my office every day trying to get me
to sign. Then 11 months later they fired me because I was disrespectful to
Ken Karr, which is another story we don’t have time to tell.”
When reminiscing about
the events that led to his dismissal, it is easy for Emory to recall the
shape of the program when he took it over in 1980 from Dye.
“We went from almost
having nothing to having a great weight program and great tutoring program,”
he said. “We were 1.7 million dollars in debt when I got here. Didn’t have
any money to recruit with. In fact we couldn’t even get stamps to send
letters to recruits.
“Tommy Bowden is probably
making 2 million now but I hired him here for $17,000. Bob Sanders is now
the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers but I was paying him
$17,000. We couldn’t keep ‘em paying that. I was teaching new coaches every
year. In 1982 we lost seven coaches.”
In fact, Emory thinks he
may have actually beaten Florida State, Miami and Florida in 1983 if he had
not lost offensive coordinator Larry Beckish the previous season. Instead,
the Pirates lost those three games in the state of Florida by a collective
total of 13 points. ECU led the eventual national champion Hurricanes with
less than two minutes to play and lost to the Seminoles in a shootout 47-46.
In spite of the obvious
frustration over his departure from Greenville, Emory still believes it was
worth it to live his dream and coach his alma mater.
“It was a wonderful five
years,” he said. “I would do it all over again even if I knew it would end
the way it did. It is my school and I have never had any hard feelings about
Emory says he will
continue on with Richmond County as long as he is able to maintain his love
for the game.
“I don’t know, I like
coaching,” he said. “If my knees hold up I’m hoping to coach for a long
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This page updated
04/21/08 07:06 PM.