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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Monday, May 8, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Basnight gets honorary degree from "my university"


7:00-9:00 a.m.

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Graduation is always a special time at East Carolina. It is also a great time to invite dignitaries and politicians to campus to learn more about what the university is accomplishing and what the needs are for the future.

Dr. Steve Ballard, chancellor of ECU, pointed that out when introducing the commencement speaker on Saturday in Minges Coliseum. There was no reason to hide the fact that Senator Marc Basnight of Manteo, the president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate, had been invited to give the commencement address just weeks before the General Assembly will take up the proposal for a new dental school in Greenville.

Basnight, considered by state politicos as the most powerful man in the state, gave his speech before a packed house in the basketball arena both before and after lunch to accommodate the large number of students in varied departments.

He called the graduates “our future stars” and not surprisingly used his address to talk about issues facing the state and the nation. He implored the audience to “do more than my generation” to make their communities and country a better place to live.”

As always, if you can excuse Basnight’s outer banks grammar and twang, the speech was right on target except for one embarrassing moment when he could not remember Ross Perot’s name. He was actually making the point that Perot was right about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In spite of the fact that Basnight did not attend college, he referred to Ballard as “my chancellor” and ECU as “my university.”

Ballard made sure to close the deal on that point by presenting Senator Basnight with an honorary degree from ECU at the end of his speech.

Basnight has said publicly on several occasions that he believes Ballard is one of the best college presidents in the nation. The relationship between the two was obvious during Saturday’s events, a clear sign that Ballard has a knack for politics and nurturing relationships with the state’s biggest players.

It is hoped the dental school will be on a fast track when the legislative session opens this week. With Basnight carrying the water in the senate it could come down to getting the votes in the House of Representatives, where Speaker of the House Jim Black is considerably wounded after recent board of elections hearings and an ongoing investigation that many believe will lead to his indictment.

ECU may have gotten a break in the house on Friday, however, when Black appointed Pitt County Representative Marian McLawhorn as one of three tri-chairs of the powerful house rules committee. Essentially that means McLawhorn can help guide the dental school legislation through the hoops necessary to get it passed.

Ballard, Vice Chancellor of Health Affairs Mike Lewis and their dental school consultant, Dr. Greg Chadwick of Charlotte, have done an excellent job of getting the initiative to this point. Barring an unexpected budget fight and the kind of “me too” piling on we saw during the heart institute debate, funds for the dental school should become reality within the next three months.

Bucs' backs against the wall

The tough weekend in Hattiesburg for the East Carolina baseball team does not doom the Pirates but it certainly dealt another blow to their hopes for an NCAA regional bid.

If the magic number is 35 wins, then the Pirates have some work to do and not many games left to do it. After the Southern Miss sweep this weekend, East Carolina has just eight regular season games left. With a 28-20 record the math is working against ECU at this point.

Two games with Coastal Carolina, a team with which the Pirates always seem to struggle, remain. The Pirates host Coastal on Wednesday for the last mid-week game of the year in Clark-LeClair. Then, ECU returns the game to Conway the following Tuesday.

Only a home series with UAB this coming weekend and season-ending Memphis series remain in league play. After that, the C-USA tournament will be played in Houston. By then the fate of this edition of the ECU Pirates baseball team could be sealed.

The manner in which the weekend in Mississippi unfolded was particularly painful considering the Pirates blew a 7-run lead on Friday to lose 11-10 in two extra innings.

Then on Saturday night came another collapse as ECU lost a 5-0 lead and went on to lose 8-5. Being down from the outset and going on to lose on Sunday was no consolation. Southern Miss completed the sweep with a 10-1 shellacking of a Pirate team that limped back to the airport.

ECU is not exactly peaking. Now Coach Billy Godwin must find a way for an unprecedented late season rally or the season will end for this Pirate squad when the games run out on the current schedule.

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:03 PM.

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