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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Monday, March 27, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Ed Emory: Once a Pirate, always a Pirate


Ed Emory
Photo: Richmond Raiders

People who were around East Carolina in the ‘80's all have an opinion of Ed Emory. Some believe his years in Greenville were some of the best every for the football program. Others disagree. Emory’s love for his alma mater, however, has never been in question.

Emory took over the program in 1980 after a high profile era featuring the legendary Pat Dye. Following in the footsteps of Dye would be hard in many ways. Not only had the program been use to winning 8 and 9 games each year, but Dye’s controversial departure from ECU had split the fan base.

Add to that the fact that East Carolina was trying to live as a Division I independent in an era when it cost a lot of money to be competitive. Oh, and one other thing… the program was nearly $2 million in debt.

This past week, Emory returned to Greenville to attend the funeral of his friend and former East Carolina roommate Henry VanSant. The former Pirate head coach and current Richmond County Senior High School coach stopped by Talk 1070 and Cable 7 for a Thursday morning Talk of the Town interview.

The careers of Emory and VanSant had intersected in the late 'fifties. Henry played for the Pirates from 1957 to 1961 after a military career in the paratroopers. Emory, who is younger although he won’t say by how much, roomed with VanSant and graduated from East Carolina in 1960.

Henry dotted all his I’s and crossed all his T’s”, Emory said. “I was what you might call ‘high risk.’ He would get up every morning and shine his shoes. I would get up every morning and put on a different pair.”

Emory, who became head coach of the ECU program in 1980, says he almost returned to Greenville years before that when Clarence Stasavich ran the program.

7:00-9:00 a.m.

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


Replay last Thursday's Talk of the Town, which featured a guest appearance by East Carolina Hall of Famer, prep coaching legend and former head coach of the Pirates Ed Emory:


“I knew Stas back then,” said Emory. “He came and spoke to my banquet when I was coaching high school in Wadesboro in ’65. He offered me the freshman job here for $6,000. I had two children and I told him, 'Coach Stas, I can’t afford that. I’m making 12 now.' The only person I know who could work for 6,000 was Bill Cain so he took the job. He’s probably got more cash money than anybody in North Carolina.”

These days, in spite of badly needed knee replacements on both knees, Emory continues his first love of coaching. In six years at Richmond County, his Raiders have posted an incredible 66-5 record and turn out superstar Division 1 players year in and year out.

“We’ve been very fortunate but in Richmond County being 14-1 is not very good,” Emory laughs. “Last year I really screwed up and I was 13-1. It’s a football town. Great support and great fans. We get about 8-10,000 people every Friday night.”

Joining Emory on his Richmond County coaching staff are former Pirate players Paul Hoggard, who played two years for both Art Baker and Emory, and Jake Eddings, who played for Steve Logan.

Emory will be the head coach of the North Carolina Shrine Bowl Team this coming season. He says his timing for that duty is one year off since his star running back, Norman Whitley, was the MVP in this year’s game.

After a long recruiting saga, Whitley will play at ECU for Skip Holtz this fall.

“Norman is a great player and a good kid,” said Emory. “We never had any problems with Norman and he had a 3.2 average. But he’s a running back so you know he’s a little different.”

Whitley’s recruitment took some odd turns before ECU landed him. According to Coach Emory, he was a hot property early, particularly after his junior season.

“Everybody was after him,” he said. “At first he wanted to go to Michigan or Ohio State. They recruited him hard. In fact everybody in the country wanted him…maybe 75 to a hundred schools were after him.

“He turned all of them down. He turned a scholarship to North Carolina down in September and John Bunting told him when we have our four running backs we’re not going to recruit anybody else. Norman told him he wasn’t going to commit until February.”

Holding out appears to have limited Whitley’s options, according to Emory. By February, East Carolina was one of the few remaining teams with an interest.

“He probably wanted to be a Pirate but he just didn’t know it at the time,” Emory chuckled. “Because he would come into my office every day and see my football jersey in a frame that the program gave me when Logan was here. I have a lot of other pictures from East Carolina in my office so he’s seen nothing but East Carolina for the last three years.”

Emory had a hand in another great Raider player landing in Greenville. Jamar Bryant, who played quarterback for Emory, will hopefully be eligible this fall for ECU after originally signing with Georgia. [Editor's note: This paragraph has been revised from its original version. The word "finally" has been replaced by "hopefully."]

Bryant will most likely line up as a wide receiver for ECU.

Emory during his days
as ECU's head coach.
Archive Photo:

“Jamar’s one of the greatest players I ever coached,” Emory said. “I’m glad he’s here.”

As for Emory himself, he says he is not harboring ill feelings about his controversial dismissal from ECU in the mid-eighties. However, when pushed on the subject he says there are three particular individuals who orchestrated his downfall.

Emory’s best teams were in 1982 (7-4) and 1983 (8-3), after which he says he was offered the head coaching job at Miami and turned it down to stay with his alma mater. In spite of that, Emory feels ECU's director of athletics, board of trustees chairman and chancellor at the time did not return the loyalty.

“I never had any hard feelings for East Carolina University or the people… nobody but (AD) Dr. (Ken) Karr, (trustees chairman) Tom Bennett and (chancellor) John Howell,” Emory said. “Kerr is the person who did to me what happened.

“The year before they begged me and begged me to re-sign my contract. John Howell sent (assistant to the chancellor) Dick Blake over to my office every day trying to get me to sign. Then 11 months later they fired me because I was disrespectful to Ken Karr, which is another story we don’t have time to tell.”

When reminiscing about the events that led to his dismissal, it is easy for Emory to recall the shape of the program when he took it over in 1980 from Dye.

“We went from almost having nothing to having a great weight program and great tutoring program,” he said. “We were 1.7 million dollars in debt when I got here. Didn’t have any money to recruit with. In fact we couldn’t even get stamps to send letters to recruits.

“Tommy Bowden is probably making 2 million now but I hired him here for $17,000. Bob Sanders is now the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers but I was paying him $17,000. We couldn’t keep ‘em paying that. I was teaching new coaches every year. In 1982 we lost seven coaches.”

In fact, Emory thinks he may have actually beaten Florida State, Miami and Florida in 1983 if he had not lost offensive coordinator Larry Beckish the previous season. Instead, the Pirates lost those three games in the state of Florida by a collective total of 13 points. ECU led the eventual national champion Hurricanes with less than two minutes to play and lost to the Seminoles in a shootout 47-46.

In spite of the obvious frustration over his departure from Greenville, Emory still believes it was worth it to live his dream and coach his alma mater.

“It was a wonderful five years,” he said. “I would do it all over again even if I knew it would end the way it did. It is my school and I have never had any hard feelings about the people.”

Emory says he will continue on with Richmond County as long as he is able to maintain his love for the game.

“I don’t know, I like coaching,” he said. “If my knees hold up I’m hoping to coach for a long time.”

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:06 PM.

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