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Insights and Observations

with Henry

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Henry's Highlights
Thursday, July 8, 2004

By Henry Hinton

Pirate ship navigates towards calmer seas


The second half of 2004 is now officially here. Its time for a report card on where things stand at East Carolina to see if second half adjustments need to be made in order to advance the cause.

Exactly one year ago, the university was entering a most tumultuous time. There were high hopes for a turnaround in football, but the major story dealt with the shifting sands of college conferences.

Miami had announced it was leaving The Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Virginia Tech had just pulled off the coup of the century by manufacturing its own invite through political pressure in their state legislature.

Who would be the 12th team? That was the major story one year ago today. Speculation was rampant that Syracuse, Boston College or possibly even West Virginia would also bolt to join the ACC. There was even some political grandstanding in our own state that suggested ECU should get a look.

The best play for the Pirates athletics program would have been to quickly move on filling the void left by some of the Big East teams. The timing could not have been worse. The university had lost its athletics director and its chancellor was beginning to have problems of his own. Controversy seemed to be following everyone involved.

If ever strong leadership was warranted, East Carolina University needed it at that time. That Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida got the nod while ECU was left on the sideline will forever be considered a setback for the Pirate athletic program.

Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? A lot can change in 12 months.

There are brighter days ahead. How bright continues to be the question. A restructured Conference USA continues to be a much better deal for ECU than its previous positioning. True, it’s not the brass ring. But if we’ve learned anything it is that the shuffle is never over.

2004 may well be the start of something good. Certainly, the hiring of Chancellor Steven Ballard appears to be a good start. Ballard is being well-received and most who meet him get the sense that his leadership skills can take the university to another level.

John Thompson’s first year as head coach is behind him and he seems willing to make some strong adjustments of his own. Realizing the need for change and being willing to do it are part of the learning process for any coach.

The hiring of Noah Brindise as offensive coordinator certainly looks like a plus on the surface. Brindise, a Steve Spurrier disciple, should bring a more wide open approach that features a passing game more conducive to winning at ECU.

Bill Herrion already has his first victory of the new season after convincing university administration officials to allow him to keep his top assistant coach. Greg Herenda was being wooed by Virginia a month ago. Herrion could ill-afford to lose Herenda at such a crucial recruiting period.

Interim athletic director Nick Floyd, having been given autonomy by Ballard to make decisions in the department until further notice, gets an assist on that save by allowing Herrion to increase Herenda’s compensation package to become more competitive with the UVA offer.

Baseball coach Randy Mazey did not reach the program’s ultimate goal of getting to Omaha but was oh so close. Mazey’s team had an amazing season and re-energized the Pirate faithful with another nationally-ranked finish. When his team was ranked No. 3 in the nation it was the highest spot in the polls ever for a major sport at ECU.

All in all, it seems like the first half of 2004 gets high marks. Things are changing for the better and ECU seems to be in a comeback mode.

Losing the conference realignment sweepstakes may still be the equivalent of reaching for the brass ring and missing it, but ECU may still be poised to have a bright future. All that can be done now is to reposition the program as a winner to prepare for the inevitable future changes in the conference landscape.

Let’s hope the second half of 2004 produces some new fireworks that keep the university moving in the right direction.

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02/23/2007 10:13:46 AM

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