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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Thursday, May 27, 2004

By Henry Hinton
Broadcaster & Owner of Greenville Cable 7

No clear target on AD radar


When incoming East Carolina chancellor Steve Ballard announced last week he would slow down the process of hiring an athletic director, he really must have meant SLOW it down.

The ECU Board of Trustees is meeting in Raleigh today for its annual retreat to discuss issues facing the university in the upcoming school year. Many speculated that Ballard would bring his recommendation for the top job in athletics to that meeting.

According to inside sources late Thursday, that will not happen. After reportedly nearly pulling the trigger two weeks ago on Oklahoma associate AD Rick Hart, Ballard began to get an earful from Pirates everywhere.

The search has dragged on for so long that clear lines have been drawn with various constituencies. The search committee sent three names to Ballard several weeks ago. They were reportedly interim AD Nick Floyd, South Carolina associate AD Jeff Barber and former Air Force AD Randall Spetman.

The Hart rumor surfaced two weeks ago and stunned many around the program, including some on the search committee who had interviewed him but not passed his name on for final consideration.

Since that time it appears Ballard has been inundated with contacts including phone messages and e-mails from people lobbying for their particular choices.

Barber was back in Greenville last weekend and had dinner with Ballard on Saturday night, an apparent attempt to see if there might be chemistry that had not provoked a positive spark after their first interview.

Barber, an ECU alumnus who worked in the Pirate Club before moving into the administration at USC, has a vocal contingent of backers. Some members of the search committee have adamantly encouraged Ballard to take a second look at the Greenville native.

There have been others who think that Ballard should allow Nick Floyd to continue in the job for a year allowing the new chancellor a chance to get his feet on the ground before making a final decision.

Floyd, apparently frustrated by the Hart rumors two weeks ago, pulled his name out of consideration. He has not officially re-entered the sweepstakes even after Ballard issued a statement saying he would wait a few more weeks before making the call. Floyd is still considered a possibility but is rumored to be putting irons in the fire on other jobs at this point.

Spetman’s name is rarely mentioned when talking to people close to the action. And Rick Hart? Who knows? It seems unlikely that he will get the nod after the outpouring of emotion Ballard heard from people who think Hart’s age, 31, and lack of hiring and firing experience should disqualify him.

Late Thursday afternoon, word came that Ballard has decided to delay the decision again. It is likely that the barrage of lobbying from all angles has him confused at this point. Sources say that Ballard told members of the Board of Trustees that he is still not comfortable with making a decision until he is officially on campus next week and has a better feel for the issues.

Conventional wisdom would tell us at this point that Ballard has still not been able to cozy up to any of the candidates. There is even some speculation that he may totally re-open the search.

That news has started a grassroots effort in Greenville to try and convince Ballard that Jeff Barber should be the hire. A petition has even been started by some who want the new boss man to know that Barber has strong support in the community.

Since Ballard has heard a snoot full from everyone by now, it is unlikely that anything like that will be successful. He has already been heavily lobbied by very influential folks inside and outside the program and has yet to blink.

It appears that Ballard is his own man and has decided that making a decision with which he is totally comfortable is more important than a timetable being imposed by others who want him to make a decision now.

But wait. This one has been full of surprises. Anything can still happen.

Swirl of politics hovers over CV Center

Efforts to get the General Assembly to fund the ECU Cardiovascular Center in the current short legislature session continue in Raleigh.

As we have reported, the Senate has already passed a bill and sent it on to the House of Representatives. That particular bill only funds the ECU project and the UNC-Chapel Hill Cancer Center.

Co-Speaker of the House Jim Black has said from the beginning he will support the ECU effort but it must be part of a larger package that includes funding for projects in other parts of the state.

Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight seems to have drawn a line in the sand again in recent days, indicating the House should just ratify the Senate bill which would fund the two facilities with traditional Certificate of Participation funding. Black has been working on a new type of financing plan called a Real Estate Bond Investment Trust, an innovative but never-before-used funding scheme.

Related Items:

Gauntlet ahead for matters of the heart
Don’t light the victory cigar yet but this week's votes in the North Carolina Senate in favor of East Carolina’s Cardiovascular Institute put the project on the front burner for this session of the legislature... More...

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Basnight has garnered some support for his point of view apparently. Black was reportedly angered by an editorial in the Greenville Daily Reflector on Tuesday which accused him of jeopardizing the bill with a “swollen list of projects and his oddball financing.”

Black has consistently said he would support ECU and Chapel Hill as long as other projects were included. He has asked university and community advocates from Greenville to be patient with him as he works through the issues surrounding this funding request. He is clearly dealing with a lot of issues Basnight does not face in the Senate.

Complicating the matter is Co-Speaker Richard Morgan’s problems in his own Republican party. Morgan was just jettisoned from the North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee last weekend for being disloyal to his party. Many interpret that to mean they want Morgan to stop cooperating with Black, particular on funding issues. The timing could not be worse.

The Daily Reflector editorial also seems ill-timed. Informed insiders know that Black has been saying from the beginning that the heart center’s best shot will come once a House bill has been passed and then a conference committee has been formed to negotiate a settlement that both chambers will accept.

The task ahead in the House is difficult enough. Angering Black now could well make him throw up his hands and say, “OK, the heck with it, then.”

The Blame Game cost ECU a chance for funding on this project in 2003. Finger pointing does not seem to be productive at this point.

The entire university and community should give Black the chance to work through his issues in the House, as he has asked, and make good on his commitment to help ECU get its Cardiovascular Diseases Institute this time around.

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02/23/2007 10:13:36 AM

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