NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By Bethany Bradsher
Coach watch takes a back seat
for a week
All rights reserved.
Considering that December football in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is about as
common as a white Christmas on Ocracoke, East Carolina fans might feel the
need to scour their memory for the last time they tailgated in Greenville
after their Christmas tree was up.
After all, the Pirates have only played one other home game in December in
the program’s 77-year history.
The last occurrence
wasn’t as distant as you might think. It was only seven years ago, on
Friday, Dec. 6, 2002, and if that date doesn’t ring a bell it might be
because it marked the lowest point of a tough season.
The 2002 schedule had
included two bye weeks for ECU, which is why the regular season extended
into December. That Friday night, Cincinnati came to town to face a 4-7
Pirates team and beleaguered head coach Steve Logan, in his 11th season at
By game’s end, ECU
had lost to the Bearcats 42-26 for
its worst finish in nearly a decade, and Logan’s future was in peril.
By Saturday, Dec. 7,
it was official: That December clash
had been Steve Logan’s last game as the ECU coach.
This December, of course,
is completely different. This late-season game is earned, and fans carry an
air of pride and excitement as they plan tailgating menus on a day when they
are usually sitting home.
But there’s still an
undercurrent that ties those two December games together: Whether they admit
it or not, Pirate fans wonder if this could once again be the last home game
for their head coach.
Of course, if Skip Holtz
leaves it will because he has coached himself into greener pastures. He is
young and successful with an excellent coaching pedigree, and Pirate fans
have run this drill before.
Remember the rampant
speculation, last December, about whether Jennifer Holtz purchased a
Syracuse-orange sweater in New York City? With Charlie Weis’s firing this
week, the Irish message boards are naturally throwing Holtz’s name around,
and www.si.com columnist Stewart Mandel raised his name as a potential
candidate for the Kansas job if Mark Mangino is fired (Kansas AD Lew Perkins
was Holtz’s boss at Connecticut.)
Just as hurricane season
creates a suspended state of unease, stirred up every time winds swirl in
the Atlantic, late fall makes Pirate fans feel like they’re standing on
shifting sand. But instead of tropical depressions, it’s coaching vacancies
that create a collective pit in the stomach of the Pirate Nation.
All ECU fans want for
Christmas is for every BCS head coach to stay put for once, so that the Game
of Speculation, with Skip Holtz as a pawn, can be suspended temporarily.
But this is big-time
college football, and it is attended by swarms of media, bloggers and
message board devotees for whom speculation is next to godliness. Every day
a new college turns up without a football coach, and Holtz has again won
enough games to earn a place in many of those conversations.
Holtz repeatedly says all
of the right things — he and his family are happy here, he hasn’t finished
the task before him at East Carolina, he enjoys his job and doesn’t want
“I have not called for a
job, applied for a job, or looked for a job since I’ve been here,” he said
this summer. “I have one. And I love the one I have. I’ve been honored to
have the opportunity to talk to some different people, and it makes me
realize what a special place I have. The grass isn’t always greener on the
other side, and if you ever make a job decision for money you’ll never make
Pirate fans have been
here before. They have lost coaches whom they thought they couldn’t possibly
win without, and they’ve lost coaches whom they wanted to personally escort
out of town. Those who have been around for decades know that the program is
bigger than its leadership and that it can weather even the most ineffectual
But this week, they would
rather focus on the Houston Cougars, on a chilly game day and the prospect
of a second consecutive Conference USA championship.
So, much is right with
the Pirate football world this week. Forgive the diehard Pirate if they
ignore the pundits for a few more days and just embrace their coach, who
seems to love it all as much as they do.
Besides, if you look at
the weather forecast sideways and hold your mouth right, you could possibly
see a snowflake or two on Saturday. And if East Carolina can play football
at home in the snow, pretty much anything can happen.
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12/02/2009 02:21 AM