Notes, Quotes and Slants
Read Denny O'Brien's
feature on Scott Cowen's confrontation with the Bowl
Championship Series in
Notebook No. 206
Tuesday, September 7, 2004
By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist
Clean-up hitter found
Carolina is expected to announce today that M. Terry Holland will
become the university's director of athletics.
ECU chancellor Steve Ballard said that Holland, a former AD at
Davidson and Virginia, had emerged in the second stage of the search
process conducted by consultant Chuck Neinas..
More from Al Myatt...
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PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
Tracking the Classes
NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
New Leader Takes Charge
SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
No question, East Carolina needed a home run with its looming athletics
Landing a name like Terry Holland is
a towering grand slam.
Holland's name alone commands the immediate respect ECU desperately needs
as it seeks to improve its national image. As a bonus, Holland's rolodex of
contacts and long tenure in a high-profile conference gives the Pirates a
better seat at almost any negotiating table.
With better conference positioning a high priority, the magnitude of
hiring an administrator with Holland's credentials is immeasurable. From his
knack for scheduling big-time opponents to his experience overseeing major
facilities facelifts and heading the NCAA basketball selection committee,
Holland has a rιsumι matched by few.
What's more, Holland possesses the impeccable character traits many feel
were lacking during former AD Mike Hamrick's rocky tenure.
Holland is known as a straight shooter, and his long and successful reign
as a top-flight hoops coach untarnished by tangible controversy is further
proof that he can communicate effectively with athletes and administrators,
as well as other influential figures within the college ranks.
During Holland's reign as athletic director in Charlottesville,
Virginia's programs were solid across the board, evidences by the Cavaliers'
annual Top 30 national ranking in the Sears' Cup standings. Football made
the most noticeable resurgence thanks to the upgrades he made in facilities
and the schedule, along with the hiring of current Wahoos coach Al Groh.
How many ADs do you know who can convince a coach to trade the glamour of
a pro job in the Big Apple for a small outpost in the Commonwealth state?
Not to be be overlooked is Holland's strong Down East roots. Though his
professional career was logged outside the Eastern North Carolina corridor,
the Clinton, NC, native has spent enough time in the region to embrace the
culture and fully understand its challenges.
Want to talk about a chip on the shoulder? Try an accomplished,
gracefully aging Eastern North Carolinian facing his final and perhaps most
On the other hand, the potential downside of hiring Holland is the
relatively short-term tenure he is likely to serve at ECU. Given his age
(62), more than a five-year run can't be expected. Once his contract ends
providing the ink dries later today he likely will sail his vessel into
the sunset and not seek another term.
Even so, any major changes in the national landscape are likely to take
place within the next three-to-five years. Given that assumption, the
Pirates cannot afford to hesitate over what is likely to be a high-dollar
solution of Holland's stature.
In the meantime, interim AD Nick Floyd can be groomed by the man who
successfully guided one of the nation's most reputable academic institutions
into athletics nirvana and did so without compromising the scholarly side
of the student-athlete equation.
Floyd already has proven he can calm the waters following a violent
storm. After a few years as Holland's first mate, he will be more than ready
to steer the ship for the longer journey.
Where Chancellor Steven Ballard almost hit bankrupt by pursuing Rick
Hart, he is poised to win the sweepstakes by hiring Holland. Rest assured
Ballard will get another earful from Pirates faithful if he closes this deal
today. But this time, it will come in the form of a major league thank you.
Pirates and Deacons in role reversal
It wasn't long ago that East Carolina reigned as the state's
flagship football program. Trace
back, and you'll find Wake Forest etched firmly in the role of neighborhood
Those were the days when a date with the Pirates meant a week of insomnia
and heavy doses of Pepto for opposing coaches. By contrast, the presence of
the Deacons on the docket was the competitive equivalent of a bye.
But since that eerie night in 2001 when the Deacs marched into Greenville
and shocked the heavily-favored Pirates, both programs have experienced a
dramatic reversal of fortune. Wake now is the program with the healthy chip
on its shoulder, while ECU has moved into purgatory.
All Saturday's openers did was reaffirm that painful perception.
Respect-hungry Wake hung close with a Top 20 foe in one of the nation's
most intimidating venues. Meanwhile, the Pirates offered nothing more than a
tune-up for No. 10 West Virginia.
Sure, there was a silver lining or two for ECU, but there are only so
many ways you can positively spin a 33-point drubbing.
"You look at our football team and compare it to where we were and where
we're trying to get," Thompson said following the Pirates opening loss to
West Virginia. "I know it sounds crazy, but we're going to be a better
football team. We're getting there."
On offense, ECU did show signs of the pulse it lacked last season under
Rick Stockstill's direction. New coordinator Noah Brindise stayed true to
his pledge to stretch the field and quarterback James Pinkney proved capable
of navigating the vessel.
Defensively, however, the Pirates were pushed around more than a shopping
cart before a hurricane. Poor tackling was the most distinct characteristic
of the Pirates' retooled defense, with the most glaring result being bruiser
Kay-Jay Harris' 337-yard evening.
"We gave up some big plays on defense," Thompson said. "They executed.
Every time that we were out of position, they did it especially the first
play of the game."
Not a comforting thought heading into a game against an opponent that
excels at execution and deception in the running game.
Like the Mountaineers, Wake runs out of spread formations and takes the
occasional shot deep off play-action both major problem areas for the
Pirates' defense. Unlike ECU, Wake now has a noticeable swagger, something
it stole from the Pirates in Jim Grobe's victorious debut.
Whereas West Virginia was an unfair barometer of East Carolina's
progress, Wake Forest will provide an accurate one.
The talent variance will be minimal. In fact, the Pirates may have the
The question is whether East Carolina possesses the confidence, mental
toughness, and flamboyance of its gritty in-state opponent.
Strange assessment when the opponent is Wake Forest.
But it is an accurate one for two programs that have traded spaces.
Rios downplays performance
Edwin Rios punched in the surprise performance for East Carolina
Saturday. The Pirates receiver corralled seven passes for 113 yards and two
Playing without primary deep threat Demarcus Fox, Rios emerged as the
go-to guy in the Pirates' aerial assault. But after a humbling 33-point loss
to the Mountaineers, the senior receiver isn't basking in personal glory.
"Personally, I really want to win," Rios said. "I would give back the two
touchdowns for a win. This is OK, but it's not important to me. I really
want to win."
Rios did, however, voice his confidence in the new receiver-friendly
offense. Using several formations, ECU receivers often found space, but
drops and the occasional misfire by quarterback James Pinkney prevented the
Pirates from reaching paydirt early.
"Coach (Brindise) designed some great plays and I was able to get open,
and J.P. was able to find me," Rios said. "It's a great offensive scheme.
Guys get wide open.
"(Saturday) we had a couple of guys get wide open, but we didn't make
plays. We just have to come back and practice hard this week, and hopefully
the ball will change and come our way this week."
Despite the breakthrough performance, Rios wasn't without err himself.
His inability to fend off cornerback Larry Williams turned a sure
touchdown into an interception. A fourth quarter bobble on a perfect end
zone strike nailed the coffin on a potential hat trick.
Even so, Brindise was pleased with the effort from the undersized
"Eddie did a good job," Bridise said. "He made some tough catches. "I
wish he would have jumped in front of that guy in the end zone, though, on
that interception. That wasn't a very good play. But he did some good things
and he'll be one of our guys who will play a lot for us."
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02/23/2007 01:57:00 AM