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View from the East
Monday, March 22, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Focus turns to part two of leadership puzzle


Maybe today’s column should be “View from the Northeast” since I was assigned to cover the N.C. State women in the NCAA Tournament in Bridgeport, Conn., where there’s still snow on the ground and today’s high is supposed to be in the 30s.

Kay Yow may be in her 29th year as coach of the Wolfpack women but she received her undergraduate degree in English from ECU in 1964.

One great thing about the Internet is that one can still keep up with East Carolina athletics despite being in other areas of the world.

I was trying to figure out who new ECU chancellor Steve Ballard resembled ever since seeing a picture of him on the Kansas City Star website when it was announced that he was a candidate for the position several weeks ago. I think it came to me when I read he was a shortstop at Arizona in college and captain his senior season on a team that reached the College World Series.

It finally clicked. Baseball. Orel Hersheiser. The former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher. That’s who Ballard looks like, at least in pictures I’ve seen.

Whether in fact the resemblance bears out in person is not really important. I know a number of ECU people are breathing a sigh of relief that the Pirates’ new CEO does have a background in athletics. Sports are deeply entrenched in ECU’s identity and Ballard should be able to accentuate that factor in his administration based on his personal history.

The remaining piece of the puzzle at this point is to get the athletics director’s position filled. Senior associate AD Nick Floyd has been handling the job effectively on an interim basis and is among the current candidates for the position. Sources have indicated that ECU alumnus Jeff Barber, now director of the Gamecock Club at South Carolina, interviewed very well in late February and may be the frontrunner among the present field.

Floyd was thought to be a shoo-in for AD if interim chancellor Bill Shelton had gotten the top position permanently. A number of coaches have expressed support for Floyd but there is a possibility that the AD search committee will discuss re-opening the process. Candidates may be identified and approached. Floyd has already been addressing contingency plans for reduced revenues from Conference USA with its changing membership, according to a knowledgeable source.

Now that Ballard has been named, it will remove the unknown factor regarding to whom potential ADs will report. That, too, could enhance the AD selection process if it were to be re-visited. Whether re-initiating the AD search process takes place will probably be Ballard’s call. The process was originally designed to be at a manageable standpoint when the new chancellor was named.

Ballard is set to officially come aboard before June but will no doubt be proceeding with transitional aspects of taking the ECU job in the meantime.

Back to the previous point about Ballard. He should appreciate the role of athletics to a university, given his background. From an athletics perspective, that makes him a good hire. Credit goes to the chancellor search committee, the board of trustees and Molly Broad, UNC system

One source said Broad retreated several days to a tropical locale to mull the choice.

Shelton also has a background in sports, having been a football play-by-play announcer at one point in his career and a member of the NCAA presidents council while at Eastern Michigan. Ballard is younger than Shelton and that may give him a potentially longer administrative period.

ECU athletics desperately needs solid leadership on a long term basis. At this point the chancellor hire appears to be a good one for the future of ECU sports. Maybe Ballard will get another trip to the College World Series as ECU chancellor.

Spring game coming up

It’s a game week for the ECU football program — the spring game, that is.

The Pirate gridders scrimmaged on Thursday, March 11, and had last week off for spring break. The ECU coaching staff was working.

“What we did last week, we really studied the scrimmage tape,” said Pirates coach John Thompson. “We will focus this week on mistakes we made in the scrimmage. We’ll be repeating a lot of things. Our focus will narrow. We’ll cut down some reps for some guys and focus on some guys we think can be good football players for us.”

In terms of the quarterback position, with Noah Brindise coming in as the new offensive coordinator, rising sophomore James Pinkney has looked the best in spring workouts thus far.

“We’ll probably give (Pinkney) a little more work,” Thompson said.

There apparently will not be a draft of teams for the spring game on Saturday by the senior players. That was an interesting element of the first spring game under Thompson with fullback Vonta Leach and defensive tackle Damane Duckett talking some junk about who would be serving whom at the post-spring meal based on the outcome of the Purple-Gold game.

“What’s best for us this year will probably be the first offense and the second defense on one team, and the second offense and first defense on the other team,” Thompson said. “That really makes a difference on offense, especially the offensive line.”

Thompson said Hagen Mason is leading close competition with Hunter Wood to fill Doug White’s starting spot at center. The ECU coach hopes to simulate game conditions as much as possible. There will be kickoffs and kickoff returns but he said the punting element will be restricted.

Game week preparations will include another scrimmage on Wednesday.

“We’ll run early on Monday,” Thompson said. “We’ll have a real good practice on Tuesday and scrimmage on Wednesday. We’ll correct mistakes from the scrimmage on Thursday and play Saturday. Hopefully, we can put on a good show.”

Thompson on the 2004 schedule

ECU opens the 2004 football season at West Virginia and plays its first home game with Wake Forest. After an open date, the Pirates play Cincinnati in Greenville in their first Conference USA game.

“We traded Miami (Fla.) for open, which was a pretty good trade,” Thompson said. “We play N.C. State in Charlotte instead of North Carolina at home. Everything else flip-flops (home and away, compared to 2003). We have an open date before playing at Southern Miss and we have four games in November.

“It’s tough. I wish it would lighten up a little.”

Thompson would like to have a non-conference game in which the Pirates were solid favorites.

“I think we need to,” he said.

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02/23/2007 12:45:19 AM

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