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Signing day 2003 is certain to have a unique flavor at East
Carolina. That is the reality with which Steve Logan is dealing these days.
Logan has worked relentlessly over the last 11 seasons, blending a
consistent recipe spiced heavily with the type of down-home flavor that's as
sacred to Pirate football as vinegar is to the region's barbecue.
Now, the 11th-year Pirates coach must expand his taste buds and blend a new
concoction of athletes who, when the list of signees is released, may seem
unfamiliar even to those who feverishly track ECU's recruiting efforts.
It's not that Logan has altered his palate, but
the menu available to him has been drastically changed.
Had he his druthers, Logan would just as soon pluck high school talent from
his own back yard rather than explore regions where more high-profile
programs have already established supremacy. That commitment is what helped
germinate strong bonds between Logan and area high school coaches, something
about which Logan spoke proudly last February.
"It's real gratifying the reception we get from the coaches here in this
state, and the local coaches in particular," he said at the time "They now
want to see their kids play here.
"They know that they can jump in the car and come up here and watch the kids
play. That's a trust relationship that has cultivated over a 13-year period
now. We're real careful to keep cultivating that."
Apparently East Carolina wasn't careful enough.
When the school reneged on a pledge to avoid Friday night
play and fumbled the public relations aspects of the move, high school
executives and many high school coaches threatened to turn their backs on
ECU, even though Logan, like them, was reportedly blind-sided by the broken promise.
As it turns out, it wasn't a bluff, as several high schools have removed
their welcome mats, while some coaches have returned blank tapes to the ECU
football office in lieu of footage featuring potential prospects. Though
deemed an innocent bystander by those giving him the cold shoulder, Logan
has now come to the realization that he must develop a new recruiting
philosophy to replace the one he's spent more than a decade developing.
The sudden, but necessary, shift in gears is likely to have a negative
impact on the lives of a number of Down East high school athletes who were
on ECU's radar and who may not
receive Division I-A offers.
The new equation directly influences the direction of
East Carolina's future recruiting strategy, which under
Logan has embraced Leo Jenkins' vision of using regional resources to impact
the national scene.
"If it's Eastern North Carolina, we find reasons to bring them here rather
than reasons to not bring them," Logan said not long ago. "If it's an Eastern North
Carolina kid, we're just going to look, and look, and look for ways to fit a
guy like that in the program.
"Even if we don't need that particular position, if he's a local kid, we're
going to try to work him into the program."
Some have suggested that the North Carolina ban is actually a Godsend,
forcing Logan to fish deeper ponds packed with bigger catches. The question
is, where can East Carolina suddenly establish itself as a recruiting force,
considering the bevy of heavy hitters which have laid claim to the premiere
high school markets?
Florida is the obvious first choice to cast a recruiting line, but the
Sunshine state already has a lengthy pecking order of attractive suitors.
After Florida, Florida State, and Miami pack it in, out-of-state big dogs
get their day at the beach, followed by up-and-coming South Florida and
Central Florida, both of which have rosters lined with in-state talent.
Though Florida is widely considered home to the cream of the high school
crop, Texas, which annually produces 300-plus Division-I signees, isn't far
behind. Competition in the Lone Star state is even tougher, though, with
more local options for athletes, who quite frankly, would just as soon suit
up in SMU blue as ECU purple.
There are areas in which Logan has had success, however, just not on a
The Tidewater Virginia region, for example, has produced
key contributors over the years, but it is unrealistic to expect East
Carolina to use it as its primary target base.
Logan has proven in the past that he can, on occasion, go head-to-head with
Frank Beamer and reel in a keeper, but in reality, those aren't battles he
can expect to win with any regularity, especially considering the siren song
of recruiters from Virginia Tech and Virginia.
The Hokies and Cavaliers have
a legitimate shot at a national title year-in and year-out, while the most
Logan can advertise is the chance at a Conference USA title and a trip to a
That's the ceiling under which Logan and ECU football currently reside.
Never know what you're gonna get
To remain competitive while recruiting new territories, Logan may have to
tweak his approach.
It is well-documented that scholarship offers from the Pirates coach can be
short-lived if not immediately accepted and steadfastly honored, a method that has been criticized
by few in Logan's jurisdiction. However, it's unlikely Logan will get the same
reception from outsiders, who could misconstrue his sincere gesture as an
In all fairness, though, you could hardly blame a high school coach for
making such a perception if a previous relationship between the two has yet
to be established.
Issues such as academics and character may also need loosening, perhaps even
with Logan adopting a take-what-you-can-get attitude. Such methodology would
be a deliberate shift in the ideals on which he built the program, one that
now consists of a roster of boy scouts who excel in the classroom.
Proximity must also be considered, which down the road could rear its ugly
head. It's not uncommon for a young boy to become homesick and succumb to a
yearning to return
to familiar surroundings.
Chuck Amato can attest to that.
Nonetheless, that may very well be one of many future issues Logan faces as
he works diligently to piece together the shattered relationship between
East Carolina and its neighboring high schools.