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Read Denny O'Brien's feature on Scott Cowen's confrontation with the Bowl Championship Series in Bonesville Magazine.

Pirate Notebook No. 206
Tuesday, September 7, 2004

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Clean-up hitter found



Search mission accomplished

East Carolina is expected to announce today that M. Terry Holland will become the university's director of athletics.
ECU chancellor Steve Ballard said that Holland, a former AD at Davidson and Virginia, had emerged in the second stage of the search process conducted by consultant Chuck Neinas..  More from Al Myatt...


Bonesville Magazine

• PAT DYE: Short on Tenure, Long on Impact

• Recruit Profiles
• Rookie Books
• Tracking the Classes
• Florida Pipeline
• NCHSAA & ECU: Smooth Sailing Again


• 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



No question, East Carolina needed a home run with its looming athletics director hire. Landing a name like Terry Holland is a towering grand slam.

Holland's name alone commands the immediate respect ECU desperately needs as it seeks to improve its national image. As a bonus, Holland's rolodex of contacts and long tenure in a high-profile conference gives the Pirates a better seat at almost any negotiating table.

With better conference positioning a high priority, the magnitude of hiring an administrator with Holland's credentials is immeasurable. From his knack for scheduling big-time opponents to his experience overseeing major facilities facelifts and heading the NCAA basketball selection committee, Holland has a rιsumι matched by few.

What's more, Holland possesses the impeccable character traits many feel were lacking during former AD Mike Hamrick's rocky tenure.

Holland is known as a straight shooter, and his long and successful reign as a top-flight hoops coach untarnished by tangible controversy is further proof that he can communicate effectively with athletes and administrators, as well as other influential figures within the college ranks.

During Holland's reign as athletic director in Charlottesville, Virginia's programs were solid across the board, evidences by the Cavaliers' annual Top 30 national ranking in the Sears' Cup standings. Football made the most noticeable resurgence thanks to the upgrades he made in facilities and the schedule, along with the hiring of current Wahoos coach Al Groh.

How many ADs do you know who can convince a coach to trade the glamour of a pro job in the Big Apple for a small outpost in the Commonwealth state?

Not to be be overlooked is Holland's strong Down East roots. Though his professional career was logged outside the Eastern North Carolina corridor, the Clinton, NC, native has spent enough time in the region to embrace the culture and fully understand its challenges.

Want to talk about a chip on the shoulder? Try an accomplished, gracefully aging Eastern North Carolinian facing his final and perhaps most daunting task.

On the other hand, the potential downside of hiring Holland is the relatively short-term tenure he is likely to serve at ECU. Given his age (62), more than a five-year run can't be expected. Once his contract ends — providing the ink dries later today — he likely will sail his vessel into the sunset and not seek another term.

Even so, any major changes in the national landscape are likely to take place within the next three-to-five years. Given that assumption, the Pirates cannot afford to hesitate over what is likely to be a high-dollar solution of Holland's stature.

In the meantime, interim AD Nick Floyd can be groomed by the man who successfully guided one of the nation's most reputable academic institutions into athletics nirvana — and did so without compromising the scholarly side of the student-athlete equation.

Floyd already has proven he can calm the waters following a violent storm. After a few years as Holland's first mate, he will be more than ready to steer the ship for the longer journey.

Where Chancellor Steven Ballard almost hit bankrupt by pursuing Rick Hart, he is poised to win the sweepstakes by hiring Holland. Rest assured Ballard will get another earful from Pirates faithful if he closes this deal today. But this time, it will come in the form of a major league thank you.

Pirates and Deacons in role reversal

It wasn't long ago that East Carolina reigned as the state's flagship football program. Trace back, and you'll find Wake Forest etched firmly in the role of neighborhood pushover.

Those were the days when a date with the Pirates meant a week of insomnia and heavy doses of Pepto for opposing coaches. By contrast, the presence of the Deacons on the docket was the competitive equivalent of a bye.

But since that eerie night in 2001 when the Deacs marched into Greenville and shocked the heavily-favored Pirates, both programs have experienced a dramatic reversal of fortune. Wake now is the program with the healthy chip on its shoulder, while ECU has moved into purgatory.

All Saturday's openers did was reaffirm that painful perception.

Respect-hungry Wake hung close with a Top 20 foe in one of the nation's most intimidating venues. Meanwhile, the Pirates offered nothing more than a tune-up for No. 10 West Virginia.

Sure, there was a silver lining or two for ECU, but there are only so many ways you can positively spin a 33-point drubbing.

"You look at our football team and compare it to where we were and where we're trying to get," Thompson said following the Pirates opening loss to West Virginia. "I know it sounds crazy, but we're going to be a better football team. We're getting there."

On offense, ECU did show signs of the pulse it lacked last season under Rick Stockstill's direction. New coordinator Noah Brindise stayed true to his pledge to stretch the field and quarterback James Pinkney proved capable of navigating the vessel.

Defensively, however, the Pirates were pushed around more than a shopping cart before a hurricane. Poor tackling was the most distinct characteristic of the Pirates' retooled defense, with the most glaring result being bruiser Kay-Jay Harris' 337-yard evening.

"We gave up some big plays on defense," Thompson said. "They executed. Every time that we were out of position, they did it — especially the first play of the game."

Not a comforting thought heading into a game against an opponent that excels at execution and deception in the running game.

Like the Mountaineers, Wake runs out of spread formations and takes the occasional shot deep off play-action — both major problem areas for the Pirates' defense. Unlike ECU, Wake now has a noticeable swagger, something it stole from the Pirates in Jim Grobe's victorious debut.

Whereas West Virginia was an unfair barometer of East Carolina's progress, Wake Forest will provide an accurate one.

The talent variance will be minimal. In fact, the Pirates may have the upper hand.

The question is whether East Carolina possesses the confidence, mental toughness, and flamboyance of its gritty in-state opponent.

Strange assessment when the opponent is Wake Forest.

But it is an accurate one for two programs that have traded spaces.

Rios downplays performance

Edwin Rios punched in the surprise performance for East Carolina Saturday. The Pirates receiver corralled seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Playing without primary deep threat Demarcus Fox, Rios emerged as the go-to guy in the Pirates' aerial assault. But after a humbling 33-point loss to the Mountaineers, the senior receiver isn't basking in personal glory.

"Personally, I really want to win," Rios said. "I would give back the two touchdowns for a win. This is OK, but it's not important to me. I really want to win."

Rios did, however, voice his confidence in the new receiver-friendly offense. Using several formations, ECU receivers often found space, but drops and the occasional misfire by quarterback James Pinkney prevented the Pirates from reaching paydirt early.

"Coach (Brindise) designed some great plays and I was able to get open, and J.P. was able to find me," Rios said. "It's a great offensive scheme. Guys get wide open.

"(Saturday) we had a couple of guys get wide open, but we didn't make plays. We just have to come back and practice hard this week, and hopefully the ball will change and come our way this week."

Despite the breakthrough performance, Rios wasn't without err himself.

His inability to fend off cornerback Larry Williams turned a sure touchdown into an interception. A fourth quarter bobble on a perfect end zone strike nailed the coffin on a potential hat trick.

Even so, Brindise was pleased with the effort from the undersized receiver.

"Eddie did a good job," Bridise said. "He made some tough catches. "I wish he would have jumped in front of that guy in the end zone, though, on that interception. That wasn't a very good play. But he did some good things and he'll be one of our guys who will play a lot for us."

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02/23/2007 01:57:00 AM

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