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Henry's Highlights
Monday, October 24, 2005

By Henry Hinton

Chancellor on mission to leverage the "spirit"



Listen to the archive of Friday's Talk of the Town, featuring Henry Hinton's interview of ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard:


7:00-9:00 a.m.

Tune in on the radio or catch the live audio feed of today's Talk of the Town with Henry Hinton:


Dr. Steve Ballard has been the at the helm of the East Carolina University Pirate ship for just over a year, but with all the changes that have ensued it feels like a much longer period of time.

His theory that athletics is the “front porch” of the university lends considerable weight to the notion that upgrading in all sports is an important objective.

The truth is that Ballard is still in somewhat of a honeymoon period. However, one very large decision made by the chancellor has seemed to endear him to the Pirate faithful. After nearly pulling the trigger too quickly on hiring a director of athletics, Ballard waited, got a little lucky, and then landed a huge hire in legendary basketball coach and nationally-respected athletics administrator Terry Holland.

“I feel very good about hiring Terry Holland” said Ballard on Friday morning. “After that things got a lot easier because Terry has been making these decisions. And I think everyone in Pirateland knows that Skip Holtz has been a great addition to our program, as Ricky Stokes is, and other people that we’re bringing in.”

The chancellor stopped by a live Talk of the Town broadcast Friday morning at Greenville’s new Port City Java. [Replay the show's audio archive.]

“The best thing is that the Pirate spirit is back,” said Ballard. “You can feel that on campus. You can feel it at football games.”

Shortly after the broadcast, Ballard joined Holland, Holtz and the football team for a charter flight to Memphis where he watched a late comeback by the Pirates fall three points short 27-24. It was the chancellor’s first airplane trip with the team this season.

No doubt that has not dampened the new chancellor’s spirits or his belief that ECU can continue to build on what Holland and Holtz have started this season, particularly as Homecoming weekend approaches. Ballard says it has been evident everywhere the Pirate fan base has traveled.

“As I’ve said before, at Wake Forest we had about one-third of the fans and twice the noise, all on the Pirates side,” said Ballard. “There’s just nothing better than feeling the spirit. Not just in athletics, but the spirit of growth, accomplishment and impact is all over the university. It’s certainly true with the football program.”

It is a phenomenon many athletic administrators seem nearly apologetic for. Dealing with constituencies that include faculty, students and alumni, it sometimes seems hard to explain that sports could be so important.

Recently Ballard and Holland have had to answer a lot of questions. Like, why are we paying so many coaches not to work?

“I like tell all parts of our university that athletics is our front porch and we need to be very serious about having a great looking entrée point into the university,” Ballard said.

“That’s what athletics do. You can never make it the whole house. We have to make sure that we stay focused on the fact that we’re there to train undergraduate students and to do other things, especially in research and public service, that we do very well. But athletics is a positive benefit to all that.”

During his appearance on Friday, Dr. Ballard spoke of other exciting happenings around the campus, including the decision by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center to locate a key center at ECU.

The new center will make East Carolina a major player in the national biotech revolution by studying biology and its application through medicine.

Ballard is also excited about an upcoming visit to ECU by new UNC System president-elect Erskine Bowles, who will spend a day in Greenville on November 8.

The chancellor is anxious to show Bowles the importance of what is happening on the third largest campus in the system.

“I think the new president really understand eastern North Carolina and understands the difference ECU is making for this state,” Ballard said.

Other upcoming campus-related milestones and additions include the groundbreaking for the much talked about Eastern Carolina Cardiovascular Center and the new Family Medicine Center.

Ballard is now well into his second year on the job and there is no doubt the changes in the athletics department have been the headline grabbers. But there is much more happening at ECU.

The new chancellor puts it like this. "It’s not one thing or the other. It’s building an entire university that we can be proud of."

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04/21/2008 07:03:41 PM

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