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Read Henry Hinton's feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum Beth Grant in Bonesville Magazine.

Henry's Highlights
Friday, November 19, 2004

By Henry Hinton

Holland move exorcizes ECU's demons

Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• STEVE BALLARD: New Leader Takes Charge

• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door

• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams

• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate


Replay Thursday's Talk of The Town with Henry Hinton: Select clip

Another page is turning in the history of East Carolina football. Terry Holland has arrived, John Thompson is leaving, and Pirate fans are hoping this is the right move. The truth is that Holland had no choice.

Just a little less than two years ago, I was charged with writing a column following the dismissal of Steve Logan. Now, John Thompson is also departing, albeit under different circumstances.

In retrospect, it is an ironic variation of the same dark cloud over the program that surfaced during Logan’s tenure that got Thompson fired.

I wrote in that 2002 column that Logan had been a great tactician and had great love for his players and the community but that it was his lack of public relations savvy that ultimately gave Mike Hamrick permission to drop the axe.

In Thompson, the university has had the ultimate marketing dream. Thompson has been willing to go anywhere, anytime to talk up his program. The people who work with him in the sports information department at the university consider him the ultimate cooperator. His seemingly infectious enthusiasm has been evident since the day he stepped on campus.

In fact, members of the search committee charged with hiring the new coach in 2002 all said they were “blown away” by Thompson’s presentation during the interview process.

Unfortunately, none of that has translated into success on the field.

The fabric that was ripped away from the program with Logan’s ouster consisted of a coaching philosophy and relationships that were 13 years in the making.

That was the miscalculation by Hamrick and former chancellor Bill Muse.

Tearing that fabric away with no solid plan to embellish the strengths of a generally successful football program while improving on the weak points has proven disastrous.

Thompson’s enthusiasm and change in recruiting philosophies have not overcome what has been lost.

Since the news broke of Thompson’s termination on Wednesday morning, there is an obvious divide in people’s opinions. Imagine that.

Many listeners to our radio call-in shows have displayed shock that Thompson and his staff would not be allowed to get a third season to try and turn things around. Others have said it was the right move by ECU.

Terry Holland could not wait any longer.

I, for one, do not think that Holland’s dismissal of Thompson was a foregone conclusion when the new AD arrived. The decision was made strictly on performance and the prospects (or lack thereof) of next season’s ticket sales.

It is the ultimate “cut our losses” strategy by Holland. In my view, he simply had no choice.

Now, many will try to affix blame. Holland’s statement on his decision says that Thompson inherited a ‘house divided.’ There is no question that it true. How that translated into lack of success on the field is unclear, but the ECU fan base continues to be divided to this day on what has taken place over a period of three years.

Let’s face the facts: Poor leadership will yield poor results… EVERY TIME. The petty jealousies that arose after the 1999 football season gave birth to an unproductive spirit inside the program and within the Pirate community that has snowballed to this day.

Subsequent to that memorable 'Hurricane Floyd season,' a lack of communication among the major players — followed by finger pointing on issues that should have been handled professionally between professionals — degenerated into a sustained siege marked by infighting and turf battles that would ultimately lead to the departure of the key parties involved.

Enter a new chancellor and AD who have none of that history and baggage… just a charge to fix it. That is exactly what they have set about to do.

Is Thompson a victim? Yes. But at the end of the day, only one thing will reunite what J.T. has dubbed the “Pirate Nation.” That is winning football games. The prospect of that happening anytime soon under Thompson did not look promising.

Holland’s quick assessment of the ECU situation is right on target. The Pirate program must develop new relationships — and fast. The future of Conference USA is very much in doubt.

Making yet another run at the Big East is imminent. Hiring a big-name coach to go along with our big-name AD could be central to getting the attention of that conference in light of the program's recent miseries.

Agree or disagree with Holland on Thompson’s dismissal, it was the only move that made sense for the future of the program and the healing of the wounded "Pirate Nation."


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02/23/2007 10:14:16 AM

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