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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Friday, March 4, 2005

By Al Myatt

Grand new facility beats the clock


It's significant that Clark-LeClair Stadium will open on time today when East Carolina hosts Michigan at 11 a.m. in the first game of the 2005 Keith LeClair Classic.

Delays in athletics facility construction are often the rule rather than the exception.

Punctuality was not part of the equation with ECU's upper deck at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The addition was originally scheduled to be completed for the start of the 1997 football season but wasn't actually in use until the first home game of 1998.

ECU's plush Murphy Center also was a bit tardy opening its doors in terms of initial projections.

Such waits are certainly not limited to ECU. N.C. State began a major renovation of Doak Field, its baseball facility, in 2003. The Wolfpack then played in a partially completed stadium for portions of two seasons.

The Pirates played their last game at old Harrington Field on May 4, 2004 and then used Grainger Stadium in Kinston for their home field the remainder of last season while work began on the new stadium.

The weather has been far from ideal at times and yet the construction has been completed on time. That's a remarkable effort involving a lot of people.

The stadium actually got ahead of its construction schedule, which is pretty remarkable in itself.

"T.A. Loving Construction has done an outstanding job as lead contractor on the project," said senior associate athletic director Nick Floyd.

Floyd played significant role

Floyd has supervised much of the way on the baseball stadium construction. He was interim athletic director when construction started.

"Even before I officially started at East Carolina I knew the first major project I would be involved in would be the baseball stadium," Floyd said. "Over the last 3 1/2 years, it has truly been a team effort to make that dream a reality.

"The stadium is not just the result of a few individuals but of many, many Pirates stepping forward both inside and outside of the university to make it happen. Dennis Young and the Pirate Club staff have done an outstanding job of raising funds."

The contract amount for the 3,000-seat stadium with T.A. Loving Construction of Goldsboro was $8,362,284.

"The athletic staff, led by J.J. McLamb, has worked day in and day out from the planning stage to construction to bring the stadium in on time for the tournament's first game" Floyd said. "Also, the ECU facility services division led by project manager Todd Marshall, with great support from George Harrell and Bill Bagnell among many others, have been absolutely great to work with. Without their support, the project would not have been possible."

The Pirates will play Arizona State at 5 p.m. on Saturday and Georgia at 4 p.m. on Sunday as part of this weekend's Keith LeClair Classic. Ohio State and North Carolina will also be playing in the KLC, although they don't match up with ECU.

"We're looking forward to a great opening day," Floyd said. Coach (Randy) Mazey has done an outstanding job of putting together the premier baseball event in the country this weekend. No doubt all eyes in the college baseball world will be on Greenville, North Carolina, on Friday, March 4th."

Former coach Keith LeClair brought the Pirate program back to prominence. The fan support that resulted outsized the old facility.

"Keith LeClair initially had the dream for a stadium and believed that the facility would take the dream one step further and that's to Omaha, Nebraska (site of the College World Series)."

Holtz prepping for spring drills

With 2004 starter James Pinkney currently ineligible, the hot topic as new football coach Skip Holtz prepares to open spring practice on Monday is how the quarterback situation will be handled.

The plan is to devote the first six days to teaching new offensive and defensive systems but making a determination on a quarterback will obviously impact the offensive approach.

"What our quarterbacks can do is going to critical in to how much we can install this spring," Holtz said. "That's the double-edged sword we have right now since we don't know who the quarterback is going to be. You have to take that position and build your offense around it. You can't take Tony Rice and decide you going to throw the ball 40 times a game in the pocket. That's not what he does. You can't take Rick Mirer and decide to run the option up and down the field either."

Last call in New Orleans

The season will be ending for the loser of the East Carolina-Tulane basketball game on Saturday. The winner squeezes into the Conference USA Tournament next week in Memphis.

Houston spoiled Senior Night for Pirates center Moussa Badiane last week and the Green Wave has a similar occasion as ECU comes to the Big Easy.

Pirates coach Bill Herrion feels Badiane can play pro ball in Europe, possibly even in the NBA. Badiane has been an exemplary player for the Pirates.

"He's a great kid who has never taken a day off in practice," Herrion said.

Big bucks lure Merritt

East Carolina freshman track star LaShawn Merritt plans to take the money and run. Nike will sign the Pirate speedster to a pro contract, ending his college career.

The announcement comes a week before the NCAA indoor track championships where Merritt would have been favored for national titles in the 200- and 400-meter dashes.

According to an ECU release, Merritt signed a four-year contract, which included a signing bonus, with Nike to begin his professional track career after competing in just five collegiate indoor meets.

"The offer was something LaShawn couldn't turn down," said ECU men's track coach Bill Carson. "I tried to advise him to wait until after the season to perhaps enhance his leverage or standing but Nike's package was simply too lucrative at this time. They felt a sense of urgency to market him for competition in June and, when you consider the addition of appearance fees, it became impossible for LaShawn not to sign."


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02/23/2007 12:33:11 AM

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