Adams not holding back in Friday night fight
cites broken promises, lack of communication, and raised suspicion as
Bonesville staff writer Denny O'Brien recently
conducted an exclusive interview with Charlie
Adams, the North Carolina High School
Athletic Association's executive director. In
addition to O'Brien's accompanying report
about the interview and the circumstances
leading up to and surrounding it, the session
(approximately 40 minutes long) was digitally
recorded and the unedited audio can be
heard by clicking the link below:
and the accompanying
audio of Bonesville's exclusive
interview with NCHSAA Executive Director Charlie Adams were written
and digitally recorded by staff writer and columnist Denny O'Brien.
By Denny O'Brien
More than two months have passed since East Carolina
announced the decision to move its home game with Cincinnati from Saturday,
November 2 to Friday, December 6 in order to accommodate television.
In that time, East Carolina has found itself the subject of
extreme scrutiny from North Carolina high schools because the change puts
the Pirates' game in direct conflict with one of the biggest nights of the
high school playoffs, which will be in its semifinal rounds that evening.
NCHSAA Executive Director Charlie Adams, who has been vocal
in his disapproval of the Friday night game, recently returned from two
weeks of regional meetings in which 990 North Carolina high school
representatives, including principals, coaches, and athletics directors were
present. Much of the talk centered around the Friday night conflict,
according to Adams, who suggested that this is by no means a dead issue.
"This was the main topic," Adams said. "We've been doing regional
meetings for 30 years and I would say that the East Carolina situation was
the main topic and we had quite a bit of discussion on this. This probably
took up a majority of the time."
The high schools stood firm in their stance against colleges
participating in Friday night football contests that were in direct conflict
with high school games. In two separate polls, high school representatives
were asked to vote on two separate but similar issues:
One, are you against colleges participating in Friday night football
games? Two, are you against East Carolina participating in Friday night
The results were overwhelming, with the high schools voting unanimously
against Friday night college football. On the East Carolina issue, 987
voted against, while three voted in favor of the university playing the
December 6 game.
"It's a really volatile issue in North Carolina," Adams said. "There is
a major concern by the superintendents, principals, ADs, and coaches.
"They just feel like we've been protected for 90 years and when the NCAA
lifted the protection we were assured by Divisions I, II, and III (in-state
schools) that they had no intention of playing on Friday night. Then East
Carolina jumped out and scheduled one last year, which we were able to get
(ECU) to move to 11:00 in the morning. (East Carolina) assured us that it
would never play another Friday night game, and we have that in print."
That promise was not taken lightly by the NCHSAA and is one of the
primary reasons it hasn't backed down from its firm stance on this issue.
Adams also cited the potential loss of revenue that could occur December 6
and the fact that ECU would be breaking down the door on 90 years of
tradition for North Carolina's high schools, perhaps leading the way for
other area colleges to entertain the possibility of playing on Friday night.
But it is broken promises, more than anything else, says Adams, that is
"We didn't take it lightly because we worked on this thing for months,"
Adams said. "Finally, East Carolina saw where we were coming from and
agreed to try to get the game moved and did get it moved to 11:00 that
"Some very strong comments were made in the paper about the support of
high school football and the fact that (East Carolina) would not schedule
again on Friday night and would not play on Friday night and it's in
print. We were assured that East Carolina would fall in line with the rest
of the schools in the state and not schedule on Friday night."
Adams says he isn't making a mountain out of a molehill over the
potential monetary hit the high schools will take December 6. Football is
the primary source of revenue for high school athletics and he is certain
that East Carolina's game will have an impact on gate receipts for those
high schools still competing in the state playoffs.
Based on his 36 years with the NCHSAA, the last 19 of which have been
spent as Executive Director, Adams believes rural, small-town schools will
be hurt the most. Inclement weather, he says, could have an additional
impact, as the potential exists that many fans will choose to remain home,
watching the East Carolina-Cincinnati telecast in lieu of attending a high
school playoff game.
According to Richmond Senior High School coach Ed Emory, a former Pirates
player and head coach, his program saw firsthand last Thursday night the
impact major college football and television can have on high school sports.
"We probably lost about 150-200 people for our JV game when Florida State
and Clemson played," Emory said. "That was a big game and everybody wanted
to see it. Our JVs are undefeated right now and normally draw well. Even my
wife stayed home to watch that because she's a big Clemson fan."
Adams contends North Carolina high schools will suffer an even greater
monetary consequence with a college football game being played on their
traditional night and in their backyard.
Lack of communication
Adams learned about the moving of East Carolina's home game with
Cincinnati to a Friday night as he was making his way through the
Raleigh-Durham airport, having just returned home from an out-of-state
trip. Shortly after touching down, Adams says, he was approached by someone
who asked his thoughts on East Carolina's decision to move the game.
According to Adams, considering that it was news to him, he was floored.
"I couldn't believe it," Adams said. "We were in an absolute state of
shock. After what we went through last year, we had been assured that we
were not going to have another problem with East Carolina ever again. We
had in writing from every Division I, Division II, Division III (in-state
school); the athletic directors, the commissioners, the conferences. Nobody
was going to play on Friday night.
"It just really rocked us. It blindsided us. We were no more prepared
for it and just could not believe it after the assurance that we got last
East Carolina's failure to inform the NCHSAA prior to the official
announcement of the game change was in conflict with an agreement Adams says
ECU athletics director Mike Hamrick made with him.
In a letter dated August 12, 2002, Adams expressed his displeasure to Dr.
William V. Muse, chancellor of the university, regarding what he considered
as the breeching of that agreement. In particular, Adams cited what he said
was a commitment made by Hamrick in the aftermath of the previous year's
"...After all this happened," wrote Adams, "the East Carolina director of
athletics told me and this is just about verbatim that, 'If something
like this ever happens again, let's discuss it before it gets in the
That assurance, according to the letter, was almost immediately followed
by Hamrick's reiteration that Adams need not worry, "because this particular
situation would never happen again."
According to Adams' present-day statements on the matter, if Hamrick had
followed through on that promised advance contact, many of the raw edges
could have been taken off of what has become a full-blown controversy and
perhaps the dispute could have headed off altogether.
"We were not extended that courtesy," Adams said. "If we had just gotten
a professional call saying, 'Just want to let you know we're having to go
back on what we told you last year. We're going to be televising and
playing a Friday night football game, and here are the circumstances.' I
think that would have been much easier to digest than to be told the way I
was, or to read it in the newspaper, or get a press release.'"
According to earlier reports, East Carolina head coach Steve Logan, who
is adamantly against playing on Friday nights, was also not consulted on the
schedule change, instead learning of the news when he received the press
release. A clause in his contract states that he is to be consulted on all
scheduling issues, yet Logan has remained relatively quiet about the issue
since expressing his displeasure several weeks ago.
Adams, on the other hand, has not remained quiet. To this date, Adams
says, the ECU athletic department has yet to make contact with the NCHSAA,
so Adams directs his communications directly to Hamrick's boss, having sent
letters on August 5, 12 and September 30.
"All of our correspondence has been to Chancellor Bill Muse," Adams
said. "I wrote him on August, 5, kind of an institutional letter
representing all 350 schools in North Carolina and the damage that it would
do to our program.
"Then I wrote him again on August 12 and told him that it would be
difficult for us to have any kind of relationship with the athletic director
because there was an integrity issue."
A more recent letter informed Muse of the NCHSAA's regional meetings
and reaffirmed that the high schools remain unified on this issue.
To date, the NCHSAA has received just one response from East Carolina, a
letter from Chancellor Muse dated September 10.
Hamrick chose not to be interviewed for this story but issued the
"The facts and the documents have been
presented and, as we have indicated from day one, East Carolina University
has opposed and continues to oppose Friday night college football."
Just who is responsible for the decision to move the East
Carolina-Cincinnati game is one of the more perplexing issues in this
The answer tends to vary depending upon whom you ask and when you ask
"We were told by ESPN that this is a voluntary matter and that (ESPN)
does not tell schools that they have to play on Friday night," Adams said.
"We talked to Conference USA, and they said they would never tell their
schools they need to move to Friday.
"We were led to believe that this was strictly and solely a decision by
the athletic director at East Carolina."
Adams' story parallels a previous statement issued by John Wildhack,
senior vice president of programming for ESPN, who in a letter to the NCHSAA
in the Spring 2001 stated that schools "are responsible for determining if
Friday night games are appropriate for their programs."
However, the July 24 ECU press release stating the game's date change is
somewhat at odds with what ESPN and C-USA told Adams. In the release,
Hamrick stated that ECU was "helping C-USA meet its obligations with ESPN"
and that the school had been "asked to reconsider (its) position in this
case due to special circumstances which dictate that we have no choice but
to play on a Friday night."
At the time, no official statement was made available by either ESPN or
C-USA that claimed responsibility for moving the game. That would come
In a brief letter to Hamrick dated September 4, Dave Brown, Director of
Programming and Acquisitions for ESPN, stated that C-USA made the final
decision to move the game in order to "fulfill the obligations of the ESPN
contract for the 2002 football season."
The Daily Reflector reported a similar account the next day, with
C-USA Associate Commissioner Dennis Helsel, who is head of football
operations, shouldering the blame.
These statements surfaced almost congruently with a September 4 meeting
of the ECU Board of Trustees' Athletic Committee which had been called to
review the matter more than a month after the press release announcing the
Friday night TV game a delay that has raised Adams' suspicion as to just
who spurred the belated statements from ESPN and C-USA.
"I think everybody is covering for each other now," Adams said. "Now
that this thing has really heated up, I think everybody is trying to protect
not only themselves but the other party.
"It's a triangle. It's East Carolina's athletic director, it's ESPN, it's
Conference USA. We were told one thing by two of them (ESPN, C-USA). Never
have we gotten the first word from the third (Hamrick). The message has
In an effort to set the record straight, Bonesville.net contacted
Helsel to inquire why C-USA was late in delivering its statement that
claimed responsibility for the decision after more than a month of turmoil
between ECU and the NCHSAA.
"Nobody asked us for a statement," Helsel said after a lengthy pause.
"It's not C-USA policy to offer statements on such issues."
That response by Helsel to Bonesville.net's inquiry contradicts the
September 5 Daily Reflector story, which states the C-USA associate
commissioner himself contacted the paper, stating that it was the league,
not East Carolina, that made the final decision. When asked by Bonesville
to clarify, Helsel reaffirmed that the Daily Reflector had first
contacted him and he once again noted that it isn't general league protocol
to contact the media on such issues.
On Saturday, Daily Reflector sports editor Steve Andrews told
Bonesville.net that was inaccurate and that it was, in fact, Helsel who
contacted the paper with the information.
An additional call was made to Helsel, who rechecked his logbook and
acknowledged that he did indeed have a message from someone to call Andrews
and was given a home and work number. However, he was unable to confirm
through his logbook who left the message for him to call Andrews.
Helsel did confirm that he had conversations with Hamrick on August 27
and September 1 in which the Friday night football issue was discussed.
Pros and cons
Regardless of who pulled the final trigger in transforming the
ECU-Cincinnati contest into a made-for-TV Friday night game, there are clear
pros and cons for East Carolina in making the move.
ECU stands to receive additional revenues for inking the deal and
guaranteed itself a televised home basketball game with Louisville on ESPN2,
as well as a guaranteed televised appearance for football next season.
Those benefits, however, have brought with them some pretty stiff
consequences, with Logan's East Carolina football program the most visible
Shortly after the announcement, three high schools Williamston,
Southern Durham, and High Point Central announced that Logan and his staff
were no longer allowed to make recruiting visits to their campuses.
According to Adams, those were the ones reported by the media and, in fact,
others had followed their lead.
Since then, Williamston has lifted its ban and Adams says that the NCHSAA
had no influence on the high schools' actions.
"We would never take the position of encouraging our schools what not to
do or to do," he said. "What came up very quickly was coaches saying,
'Well, if you're going to play on Friday night, then you're not welcome on
"If you play on Friday night, we're not going to encourage our kids to
come to your recruiting visit. If you play on Friday night, we're not going
to support your camps.'"
That lack of support, noted Adams, could extend much further than the
"We even had, at a higher level, superintendents and principals talking
about whether they would continue to hire East Carolina grads, whether they
would use student teachers," Adams said. "But we have stayed out of
that. Our issue has been that we want Friday night. That's our sole
Now considered unwelcome guests at several North Carolina high schools,
the East Carolina football program is already experiencing the early
repercussions of the decision's aftermath. The very system that feeds the
Pirates' money sport has taken strong retribution against it.
The long-range results could be a body blow to ECU football, which is a
tradition that, over the past 11 seasons, has gained momentum and
respectability with talent mined largely from North Carolina's prep
"I do think he (Logan) will lose some recruits," Adams said. "There are
some East Carolina grads who are football coaches who feel very strongly
"It's their school and they love it, but they just feel that if you are
going to bite the very hand that feeds you if you are going to slap the
very program that supports you (they) are just not going to encourage
their kids to go there. I think it could be a very devastating blow to
Steve (Logan) and the football program."
In response to a question from a caller on his weekly radio call-in show
Sunday night, Logan skirted direct mention of the controversy but
acknowledged that the Pirates might be compelled to look outside of North
Carolina for a larger number of recruits in the future.
Adams noted that Logan's program is in the unfortunate position of being
a victim of the inevitable collateral damage resulting from a much larger
fight. Though it appears that neither he nor the bulk of the state's high
school coaches hold Logan accountable for this incident, the reality is that
Logan's program happens to be an unintended target caught in the line of
fire, according to Adams.
"I think it's very tragic," Adams said. "Obviously, he (Logan) had very
little to do with it. I think it's a sad commentary for a guy who has come
in there and built a program like he has.
"Some people have taken into consideration and realize that Steve is a
victim of what the athletic director has done. Right or wrong, good or bad,
he's going to suffer some as a result of that. Then, there are others that
have been able to separate it out and have said Steve should not be punished
for what the athletic director has done and they are going to continue to
work with him."
There are other consequences stemming from this decision, with East
Carolina potentially facing the prospect of being dropped from the
consideration of hosting future high school events. While Adams says that
location limits Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium from being used as a state
championship site, he noted the Pirates' venue could have been an attractive
location to host Eastern Regional football championships.
Not anymore. As long as East Carolina insists on trespassing on the high
schools' sacred night, says Adams, Dowdy-Ficklen will not be considered as a
potential football regional site.
East Carolina was also dangerously close to losing its privilege to host
the Eastern Regionals in basketball, according to Adams, who said that
several high school officials and NCHSAA board members encouraged Adams to
remove that event from Minges Coliseum. However, loyalty to civic interests
in ECU's home community who have helped underwrite the regionals in the past
prevailed, says Adams, noting that he didn't want to punish those who have
been part of what has become an annual hoops tradition east of I-95.
"I did not do that simply because I thought it would penalize the good
people in Greenville the good people of Pitt County who have worked so
hard to make that such an outstanding event," he said. "But with the
animosity over East Carolina playing football on our Friday night,
they wanted the Eastern Regionals gone immediately. They did not want us to
participate at a school that was not supporting us."
There's no question that the roads leading from the state's 350 high
schools to East Carolina's campus have become treacherously rocky. The
meager effort ECU has made to smooth things over offers no movement towards
a resolution of the issue, according to Adams, who notes that the NCHSAA has
received no reassurance that ECU will avoid Friday night play.
The lone correspondence to Adams from ECU, Muse's letter, merely stated
that the Board of Trustees had adopted a resolution over the matter, a
resolution the NCHSAA didn't find satisfactory.
The resolution did not eliminate the possibility of playing on Friday
nights in conflict with high school games. What it did say, according to a
copy of the resolution provided by the ECU Media Relations Office, was that
in the event such an issue would again arise, "...a decision will be made
only after the Athletics Director consults with the Chancellor, the North
Carolina High School Athletic Association and the Athletics Committee of the
East Carolina University Board of Trustees."
The September 4 resolution also stated that East Carolina has always had
a good relationship with North Carolina high schools, and looks "forward to
not only to maintaining but enhancing this relationship."
For the time being, though, it is a relationship that seems to be
virtually severed. And it's one, in light of Adams' unyielding position,
that could require visible movements by ECU towards addressing the dispute and a considerable amount of time to
"East Carolina has damaged (itself)," he said. "I don't think there is
any question about that.
"There were some bridges that not only were broken, there were some
bridges that washed away. I don't think East Carolina fully realizes how
the school people of North Carolina feel about this issue.
"I think that they are probably thinking, 'Well, we scheduled a football
game, we're going to play, and this thing will die down.' It is not
going to die down. It is not going to go away. Our stance has not changed,
nor will it change."
That perspective is backed strongly by an overwhelming majority of the
high schools, which voiced their displeasure at the NCHSAA's regional
meetings. The potential long-term consequences for ECU football have
already been brought sharply into focus by the decision by some high schools
to implement an all-out recruiting ban of Logan and his staff.
Adams says he has never seen the high schools more unified on one issue,
which has at its epicenter a sense of distrust that he attributes to broken
promises, a lack of communication, and conflicting stories that have raised
"The feeling right now is with the school people throughout the state,
they don't see how we can ever have a relationship with East Carolina with
the athletic director that we have to work with," Adams said. "We found out
we can't work with him."
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02/23/2007 01:46:56 AM