College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville
Friday, September 3, 2004
J.T. deserves second honeymoon
|• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact
• INSIDE PIRATE FOOTBALL
• Recruit Profiles
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• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again
• HIGH HOPES FOR HOOPS
• STEVE BALLARD:
New Leader Takes Charge
• SCOTT COWEN: Busting Down the Door
• KEITH LECLAIR on ECU's Field of Dreams
• BETH GRANT: Actress Still a Pirate
From the day he arrived in Greenville, John Thompson was destined for a
tumultuous baptism. In essence, he was the right man in the wrong place at
the wrong time.
It is clear that Thompson was hired as East Carolina’s football coach by
an administration that is viewed in retrospect by many as illegitimate, one
which took a string of monumentally ill-advised actions that shook the
campus to its foundation and fractured the very underpinning of ECU’s
As the proud program’s fans size up J.T.’s performance, the circumstances
leading up to and in the months after his hiring should not detract from
their appraisal of his qualifications or his potential as skipper of the
When he agreed to succeed the summarily fired Steve Logan, one gets the
impression that the perpetually-positive Thompson — whose prior perceptions
of the ECU program almost certainly were characterized by respect and
admiration — had no inkling of the depth of the shock within the football
team over the startling upheaval of the program.
He also had no way of knowing the gravity of the civil war
that was raging inside the Pirate Nation over the men that hired him.
Regardless of the discredited regime that appointed him, Thompson’s
credentials are genuine. He has been associated with some of the most
respected programs in college football and his defensive expertise is an
element around which the Pirates can rebuild.
On the other hand, Thompson stumbled badly in year one in some
impossible-to-ignore ways, particularly in his nonchalant neglect to
intervene in then-offensive coordinator Rick Stockstill’s egregious
mismanagement of what should have been the team’s primary strength — an
offensive unit that returned enough talent from the previous year to
continue putting up the bushels of points it was accustomed to.
Still, that former chancellor William Muse and former athletics director
Mike Hamrick would each leave town under a cloud in the months subsequent to
Thompson’s hiring undermined what should have been a honeymoon year for the
coach, regardless of the first-year mistakes.
In retrospect, J.T. had a colossal task dumped into his lap upon his
appointment as head coach: salvaging a sucker-punched football program left
floundering on the rocks by a pair of blundering, self-immersed
administrators. In some ways, his work in the face of such adversity was
admirable. In others, it was questionable.
In any event, Thompson deserves a full Mulligan and 2003 should be
chalked up to experience.
Now, with a 1-11 campaign behind him and a chance for a season of
redemption in front of him, it is important for East Carolina’s fans and
current administrators to recognize the chaotic circumstances under which
Thompson was hired and to hold the coach blameless for the immediate
aftermath — which included last season.
Thompson has shown no signs of flinching, even under dire circumstances,
and gives the distinct impression that he is anxious to stay the course
until the mission of restoring Pirate football to its rightful place is
Bottom line: New chancellor Steve Ballard should give J.T. a public vote
of confidence and a solid sense of job security until the coach has had a
fair chance to right the ship free of the albatross that wrapped itself
around his neck upon his arrival.
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02/23/2007 01:37:41 AM