Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather

Sponsor DENNY O'BRIEN'S Pirate Notebook and put
your message in front of thousands of hard-core Pirate fans!

Notes, Quotes and Slants

Pirate Notebook No. 137
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Help wanted: HR hitter for AD opening


As East Carolina chancellor Bill Muse surveys the nation for a new athletics director, the mission, as daunting as it may seem, should be approached like the selection and signing of a first-round draft pick. The consequences of hiring a candidate that is not a slugger could jeopardize ECU's position in major college athletics.

The task won't be easy, given the limited number of cleanup hitters currently available in college athletics. ADs who possess the qualifications necessary to hoist East Carolina among the national elite are a rare breed, meaning Muse must search with diligence and precision before making a final decision.

The fact that he will wait until the conclusion of football season before formally initiating the process that will tap Mike Hamrick's successor sends the message that he plans to comb the landscape thoroughly. It also suggests that, even though ECU athletics has reached a crossroads, Muse isn't handing the keys to just any capable prospect.

After all, the last thing East Carolina needs now is an upwardly mobile technocrat with an impressive resume in terms of bottom lines and bricks and mortar but who falls short in the very special qualities needed to unite and rally a fractured constituency to reach for and grab the stars.

A short-term thinker, no matter how effective on any given decision, will produce only short term results which will ultimately prove meaningless if the strategic objective is left out of the calculation. After all, how useful is it to achieve a bureaucratic objective or bottom-line target while in the process compromising the university's image or trampling on life-blood relationships on and off campus?

In other words, comprehensive background and thorough and wide-ranging reference checks must be performed before any interviews are conducted. If a prospect fails to meet any of the required criteria or has collected more than a handful of bitter enemies, Muse's response should be short and simple:

Thanks, but no thanks.

What East Carolina desperately needs is an aggressive but unassuming wheeler-and-dealer with a multi-volume rolodex, whose ego and drive for personal gain always is secondary to the school's best interest. Nothing less than a coat-and-tie executive will suffice, one with with an innate talent for negotiating, and whose imposing but low-key presence commands respect from those around him.

The next Pirates AD must be a charismatic front man — or woman — whose mere affiliation with an institution prompts donors to search the couch cushions and break piggy banks. A creative marketer who thinks outside the box is what it will take to get the results commanded of ECU's new sports GM.

If "John Thompson Bobblehead Day" fills Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, then the new guy must deliver. When the budget doesn't allow for professionally produced billboards, perhaps internships can be given en masse to marketing students in ECU's esteemed School of Business and ambitious artists from the school's renowned art program.

When the Big East says the Greenville market is too darn small, a PowerPoint slide show and a big wall map purple-shaded with pockets of Pirates faithful must quickly be displayed.

"Yes, Mr. Tranghese, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Wilmington and Virginia Beach all are, in real life, important parts of the Greenville market... have been for years."

Though pursuing a conference with a direct tie to the Bowl Championships Series will encompass a large portion of the next AD's agenda, it can't come at the expense of neglecting the matters at home. There has been a noticeable division among the ranks in recent years, extending from Ward Sports Medicine Building into the fan base.

Working in concert with the current staff and cultivating solid relationships with coaches will be paramount to any newcomer's success. Any warm fuzzies ECU fans can feel from the administration almost certainly would elevate Pirate Club membership.

In the end, that's the engine that will drive Pirates athletics beyond the foreseeable future. All it needs now is someone to take the wheel and inspire the hopeful — the type of administrator who can clear the bases on any given pitch.

Anything less would be a major blunder.

Conflicting stories

Hamrick recently was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal stating that his status at East Carolina never was in jeopardy. However, a handful of knowledgeable sources suggest otherwise.

According to several sources, Hamrick was informed by Muse in March that his services would not be needed after the summer and therefore it was advisable that he seek employment elsewhere. Although Muse never confirmed that Hamrick's exodus was imminent, the past several months seemed to support that theory.

Once news hit that the Atlantic Coast Conference was exploring expansion, Hamrick remained in the background, while ADs at other schools, such as Tom Jurich (Louisville) and Bob Goin (Cincinnati), appeared heavily involved in the realignment process. At East Carolina, Muse has been the point man any time a quote was offered on conference expansion.

Muse also was asked on several occasions for a statement about Hamrick's future, but never offered a glowing endorsement. Instead, he consistently stated that the former Pirates AD had done a solid job, but that he could not comment on his future.

So, if dark clouds were, indeed, hovering over Hamrick's future in Greenville, why did Muse not cut ties in March?


Muse already must pay former Pirates football coach Steve Logan $200 K over the next three seasons if he doesn't find another job. At last check, Logan appears quite content at the local fishing holes and neighboring hard courts, so shelling out an additional $180 K to Mr. Hamrick for two years wouldn't be an option.

Besides, it's much easier for a respected coach with a winning record to find employment, but axed ADs are considered damaged goods, which would explain why Logan was the first to go when it became clear the two could not productively coexist.

The fact that Hamrick pursued UNLV also is a head-scratcher, given that it is, at best, a lateral move. What's more, UNLV is mired in a telephone scandal in which several Rebels athletes charged long-distance calls to the school.

Why would any AD seek a school presently conducting a major internal investigation, especially when his current school is facing a major opportunity — conference expansion — that potentially could raise his stock even higher?

And when Vegas president Carol Harter made her initial offer, why did Muse not get into a bidding war for Hamrick's services?

Perhaps they were no longer desired.

Baird available?

One of the more intriguing candidates to replace Hamrick has to be Hal Baird.

Baird's athletic roots are deeply planted in Eastern North Carolina, having both played and coached baseball for the Pirates. One of the great architects that has patrolled the dugout in the Pirates' rich baseball history, Baird eventually left to assume command of the Auburn program and now is the Tigers' Senior Associate AD.

Baird is well-respected within the AU family and would be a sentimental favorite among the Pirates faithful to return to Greenville, so it would make sense that Muse at least place a call to the 334 area code.

The question remains, though — will he answer?

Apparently Auburn also thinks highly of Baird and is grooming him to take over the Tigers' department when the current AD steps down. AU took a positive step in that direction recently by rewarding Baird with a lifetime contract.

Though Muse doesn't plan on beginning the "official" search for a new AD until the conclusion of football season, it wouldn't hurt to call his former employee to poll his interest.

If he is the right man and seriously is interested in a homecoming, nothing, let alone a "lifetime" contract, would be a showstopper.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

Click here to dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:51:35 AM


©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.