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Insights and Observations

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Henry's Highlights
Thursday, July 1, 2004

By Henry Hinton

2004 baseball team preceded by better one


Summertime and the living is easy around Pirate sports. So our column today will feature some bits and pieces of news, thoughts and follow-ups on recent items.

This year’s East Carolina baseball team was a great one but in this writer’s opinion not the best ever. Recent release of some of the final season polls and RPI rankings tend to make that point for me.

Power rankings for the 2004 team have been in the mid teens. In comparison, the 2000 Pirates finished as high as 3rd in the nation in RPI rankings. That team defeated LSU once in Baton Rouge in the NCAA Regionals but ran out of pitching in the final game and the Tigers moved on and sent Keith LeClair’s team home.

That will always be a special team in ECU history. It should be remembered as the group that started the recent run of great baseball at ECU that has taken the program to a national level. The sad thing about that team is that it was a number one seed and had to play on the road.

That event initiated the talk that will culminate in a new stadium next season. Like I said, the 2000 Pirates got it all started.

Unexpected twist in AD search process

It was good to see Chancellor Steven Ballard name a coach to be part of the task force charged with searching for a new athletics director. The choice of John Thompson, however, seems just a bit strange.

Ballard has said he intends to take his time in this new search, and Thompson will be knee-deep in season prep and practice soon. While football is certainly the marquee sport, it is also a bit puzzling why someone with more seniority was not chosen.

Swim team coach Rick Kobe may have the longest tenure of all the full time coaches at ECU. If revenue sports are an issue, Bill Herrion might have been a good person to give input. Herrion has seniority with regard to high profile revenue sports.

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At any rate, kudos to Chancellor Ballard for realizing it is appropriate for someone from athletics to be a part. The original search committee was void of anyone from the athletic department.

Politicos, cardio center plod towards finish line

The university’s efforts to build a cardiovascular research institute at the Brody School of Medicine are still in play as the 2004 legislative session nears an end.

Leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly went on record early that every effort would be made to end this year’s “short session” prior to the July 4th holiday. They will not make it. After a recess they will return to Raleigh on Tuesday to try and finish up.

Checking with sources in Raleigh on Wednesday afternoon we learned that getting a new state budget has been more problematic than expected (what else is new?). The new fiscal year begins today, July 1, and it will have to start with an interim budget until disagreements can be hammered out.

That has put the ECU project on the back burner. It appears now that budget negotiations with the legislature and Governor Easley may not even be finished until next week. Until then, the cardiovascular project will not be brought to the floor.

The ECU request was discussed in several closed door meetings earlier this week including one with Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight and co-Speakers Jim Black and Richard Morgan. Basnight had been insistent that only the Chapel Hill cancer hospital and the ECU heart project would be funded since they are the only ones that have been approved by the UNC Board of Governors.

The House leadership has added three other projects; a biogenetics center at UNC-Charlotte, a school of pharmacy at Elizabeth City State and a very controversial geriatric studies center (including a new basketball arena) at UNC-Asheville. There are also still some disagreements about the funding mechanism.

The Asheville project seems to be the one with which lawmakers are having the most problems. Administrators at UNC-A have not been as far along in their planning as the other universities and have made changes in their project since their original request.

They have now stated, however, that only private funds will be used on the arena part of the project although it will be connected to the state-funded center.

A compromise seems to be in the works. We are told that Basnight may agree to allow the bill to go back to the floor for a vote with the provision that only Greenville and Chapel Hill are funded immediately and with the understanding that funding for the other three facilities must first be scrutinized by the Board of Governors.

This seems to be a fair compromise. The co-speakers will not get the necessary support in the House without those projects in the bill, but it does seem logical that they be approved by the governing body of the UNC System first.

At that point, if there are questions about the Asheville project or any other projects in the bill, they can be worked out by the Board of Governors.

If this horse trading pans out, expect the vote on all of the projects to hit the floor late next week in Raleigh.

There is still guarded optimism that ECU will soon be awarded this project, which will take the medical school to a whole new level of credibility nationally. Leaving Raleigh without a thumbs up on the initiative as they did in 2003 will be an embarrassment neither side wants in an election year.

Remember our Talk of the Town program can now be heard live on the Internet everyday Monday-Friday from 5:06-6pm. Just go to and click on our “Listen Live” icon. You can also replay earlier shows in the Bonesville archives.

Have a great and safe 4th of July holiday!

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02/23/2007 10:13:46 AM

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