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ECU News, Notes and Commentary

The Bradsher Beat
Thursday, August 25, 2005

By Bethany Bradsher

Flournoy, Mayo veer off on lengthy detours


What keeps a college football coach up at night? Certainly it’s the fumbles, the missed routes, the decisions to go for two that look foolish in hindsight.

But as Skip Holtz can attest, the worry is just as likely to come from the young men who take an unfortunate detour on a path paved with promise. Players like Jamar Flournoy and Ahmad Mayo, who won’t get their chance to be playmaking Pirates in 2005.

Flournoy was one of the brightest spots during spring practice, a linebacker-turned-safety from Valley, AL, who was third on the team with 75 tackles last season. He earned early praise from Holtz and his staff and seemed to be on the verge of an exceptional senior season. But this week Holtz suspended him from competition because of a violation of team rules.

“It’s going to be hard on him,” Holtz said. “He understands he made a mistake. He’s willing to do what he’s got to do to be part of this thing in the long term.”

Neither Holtz nor Flournoy commented on the specifics of the infraction, but the new coach’s decision is consistent with the principles he outlined in a June interview.

“I don’t believe in wielding an axe, but I do believe you’ve got to sit down and say, ‘These are the rules, and if you break the rules you won’t be here,’ ” he said in a question-and-answer session that will be published in East Magazine. “It breaks my heart to watch a young man’s dreams and visions for the future crumble just because of a decision he made, but I tell this team all the time, our prisons are full of great people who made a 30-second bad decision.”

Flournoy will pay for his bad decision each Saturday when he stays home while his teammates take the field. But he has already countered that mistake with an admirable decision that proves he will still be a Pirate to be reckoned with one day. When he was at a low point with bruised pride and battered dreams, he opted not to quit.

His suspension was made official on Tuesday, and Flournoy was one of the last players to walk off the field on Wednesday evening. He accepted Holtz’s offer to stay on as part of the scout team, which will allow him to practice with the Pirates but not suit up for any games. After this year, which is much like a redshirt year, he will have one season of eligibility left.

“I’m proud of the maturity with which he handled the entire situation,” Holtz said. “It would have been easy to point fingers or blame or say this or that. But he was good with it. I’m proud of him.”

Mayo, a freshman running back who has come on strong in the preseason, was just in Greenville long enough to get a feel for the new Pirate system and he’s already gone, on his way to Georgia Military Institute to get his grades up and recharge for a second run at Division I next year.

Still a pending case by the NCAA, Mayo’s academic eligibility has not yet been established, but he committed to ECU with the hopes that he would get the green light from the NCAA Clearinghouse before the beginning of the season. The problem lies in part with the fact that Mayo went to several different high schools, and the NCAA requires a transcript from each one before it can make a decision.

“We’re having a hard time running everything down and getting everything turned in,” Holtz said. “Ahmad has had a hard life, and he’s bounced around a lot and I feel bad for him.”

In his current state of limbo, NCAA rules state that Mayo can only stay on campus for 14 days unless a resolution is reached. He reported for preseason camp in the hopes that his case would receive a favorable ruling within those two weeks, but when the situation was still up in the air he chose prep school in Georgia with hopes of returning to Greenville, Holtz said.

“It may be four months before they make a decision, and I think it’s unfortunate,” he said. “It breaks my heart to see what he’s going through.”

Hope isn’t lost in either case, and as Flournoy and Mayo trade Division I intensity for less-glamorous pursuits like the scout team and military school they might yet make it as stellar Pirates. But for now, Holtz and his staff have to turn their attention away from those whose journeys took a diversion and channel their energy on the young men traveling directly along the route to the season opener just nine days away.

Setting the record straight on TV

A number of readers pointed out an error in my column last week about Pirates television coverage. I wrote that for Direct TV subscribers, CSTV is only available as part of the $93.99/month package, but in fact customers can pay just an extra $12 a month for a sports package that includes the fledgling college network. Thanks for your thorough, but very cordial, corrections.

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02/23/2007 01:11:36 AM

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