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College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville

Thursday, May 19, 2005

By Danny Whitford
Publisher & Editor

History of pettiness still burdens ECU

East Carolina coaching legend Pat Dye (48-18-1 record from 1974-79) will be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana, but has yet to overcome resistance to his entry into ECU's own sports Hall of Fame. (Photo: ECU SID)




If the East Carolina community needed another example of how internal politics have historically tripped up the school's athletic ambitions, it got a glaring one on Wednesday.

Word out of New York that the College Football Hall of Fame will enshrine Pat Dye should cause embarrassed squirming among those who have blackballed the winningest coach in ECU's modern football era from induction into the school's own Hall.

For the program's rank-and-file supporters, especially the ones old enough to appreciate the magnitude of what Dye accomplished at ECU, the development is like being shocked into reality one more time by a bucket of ice water — as if Pirate partisans needed another reminder that politics have been tied to their beloved football team like a ball and chain during much of the period since visionary chancellor Leo Jenkins retired in 1978.

As for ECU's Hall of Fame, it has also been mired in politics for a goodly portion of its three-decade existence. At one point in the 1980's, recounted columnist Woody Peele earlier this month, the school's Board of Trustees intervened directly in the Hall's selections.

Peele, the dean of the ECU sports media, should know — he and former Pirate player, coach and AD Bill Cain did the leg work in establishing the Hall in 1974, and Peele has maintained a keen interest in the shrine's processes ever since.

It takes a colossal stretch to accept at face value the justifications I've heard whispered over the years by people associated with or close to the selection process for blocking Dye from ECU's shrine.

Does it really matter 25 years later that Dye ruffled some feathers when he bolted ECU for Wyoming after the 1979 season?

What's the big lingering deal about Dye having concluded that the micro-meddling in the football program by Jenkins' successor, Thomas Brewer, was a burden he was unwilling to live with?

Is it really important in this day and time that Dye once looked into leaving ECU to take N.C. State's head coaching job, prompting a flurry of political maneuvers by Brewer and other ECU-connected operatives that blocked the Wolfpack from hiring him?

Regardless of any of those ancient tensions, Dye clearly left an unsurpassed legacy of sustained success at ECU and should have been hustled into the Hall of Fame the moment he became eligible long ago.

The relatively adolescent Pirate program needs all the ties to the hallowed traditions of college football it can muster. ECU has clearly stood to inherit more luster from emphasizing its past association with Dye than Dye has stood to inherit from ECU. features writer Ron Cherubini penned an extensive profile based on interviews with Dye in last summer's Bonesville Magazine, and both Cherubini and longtime broadcaster Henry Hinton, also a columnist, have written articles since then questioning Dye's exclusion from ECU's Hall.

[View Sept. 30, 2004, Hinton Column]
[View April 4, 2005, Cherubini column]

Maybe in the Hall of Fame class that school officials will soon announce, Dye will get his due from the place where he launched his remarkable head coaching career.

Unfortunately, when East Carolina finally gets around to bestowing the proper recognition on the man who left a job as Bear Bryant's defensive coordinator to pursue the leadership opportunity laid out before him by Jenkins and legendary Pirate athletic director Clarence Stasavich, the gesture will be perceived as the clumsy afterthought that it is.

In the wake of Dye's selection for college football's ultimate honor, what would have been an opportunity in years gone by for East Carolina to have drawn some important national attention to itself by inducting Dye into the shrine for the Purple & Gold has been devalued.

Just imagine the exposure Dye's introduction as an incoming ECU Hall of Famer would have inspired had it occurred at midfield of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during halftime of one of the dozens of games the Pirates have played on ESPN over the years.

In contrast, the only mentions of ECU you will see in accounts from The Associated Press and other major outlets about Dye's pending induction into college football's ultimate shrine in South Bend, Ind., will be passing references that get lost in the recounting of his early apprenticeship to Bryant at Alabama and his later stint as head coach (and mentor to Bo Jackson) at Auburn.

Through all the years of being officially snubbed by ECU, Dye has continued to speak fondly of the days when he pursued the broad vision mapped out by Jenkins and Stas.

And to this day, he has maintained ties to friends he made in Eastern North Carolina — a region which he pioneered as a fertile recruiting ground by scouring every farm town and fishing village for the players at the core of the team he willed to a 48-18-1 record in his six years at the helm.

All of this should not be taken as criticism of ECU's current crop of campus and athletics administrators, who have barely had time to get their bearings since taking over from a since-discredited cadre of officials that typified the arrogance and pettiness that has all too often distracted the program and its fans from the objectives at hand.

As a matter of fact, Chancellor Steve Ballard and Director of Athletics Terry Holland can go a long way toward shaping their own endearing legacies by purging ECU of the culture of infighting and trifling political games that every few years, like clockwork, get out of hand, breeding disunity and complicating the pursuit of the school's missions on all fronts.

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02/23/2007 01:37:53 AM

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