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'Painting 'em Purple'

From the Booth
Monday, September 23, 2002
By Jeff Charles
Voice of the Pirates


Faces change but growth remains constant



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Talk about changes — I’ve seen changes in my tenure at East Carolina. From facilities to personnel to expectations. Life’s about changes and adjusting to them. Here’s a walk down memory lane.

When I came here in 1988, Dave Hart was the Director of Athletics, Dr. Richard Eakin was the Chancellor, Art Baker was the football coach, Mike Steele was the basketball coach and Gary Overton was the baseball coach.

Career athletic administrators like Henry Van Sant, Earline Leggett and Brenda Edwards were all running their departments.

Guess what? None of them are here now.

Bob Fulton spent forty-three years as the “Voice” of the South Carolina Gamecocks. He’s one of my heroes.

Bob wrote a book a few years back and the foreword mentions that during his career at South Carolina, he saw eight presidents, nine football coaches, ten basketball coaches, and believe it or not, thirteen athletic directors come through Columbia.

I’ve only been at East Carolina fifteen years but I’ve now worked with two Chancellors, two athletic directors, four basketball coaches, three football coaches, three baseball coaches and four sports information directors. I might be on track to challenge Bob’s record for personnel turnover.

People come and go, some better than others, but the brick and the mortar stays here and I’ve seen a lot of changes with the brick and mortar.

I still remember like it was yesterday the April morning in 1988 that I pulled into the parking lot for my first day of work, and there was Hart walking into the Pirate Club Building (Dave had white shoes on, funny how that sticks out) which now, of course, is the Ticket Office.

There was no Ward Sports Medicine Building, no upper deck, Minges was a glorified high school gym and, of course, no Murphy Center in the end zone.

My office was in Scales as was the entire football operation. Believe it or not Sports Information was in a trailer. The Athletic Director’s office was in Minges, as was the basketball office and business operation.

When the department moved into Ward in 1989 it was like we all died and went to heaven. Everyone was under the same roof, in a state of the art facility, that housed an impressive first floor including the sports medicine, weight room, locker rooms and equipment areas.

Next came the renovation of Minges in 1994 thanks to the generosity of Walter Williams of the Trade Oil Company, and so many loyal Pirate fans who stepped forward with their pocketbooks.

During the renovation project, I purposely did not go inside the building because, quite frankly, I didn’t want to be disappointed. It was like, “How are you really going to be able to have a Division I arena with the space you have to work with?”

Two days before that first game on January sixth 1995, I ventured in and was absolutely amazed. The “old high school gym” looked like a first class arena. To this day, I still think it was one of the really terrific architect and construction jobs ever. This year a new lighting system is in place which gives the facility an even “bigger time feel.”

Next came the 8,000 seat upper deck, complete with a beautiful club level, and it was worth the wait. Remember it actually opened a year later than originally scheduled. It brought capacity to 43,000 and made a real statement as to the direction of the football program. The lights in particular gave the stadium a modern feel.

That brings us to the Murphy Center dedicated last weekend. The weight room downstairs is the best facility in the country. I’ve been in a lot of them, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh’s new complex. This one is better. The upstairs finally gives the department a facility to house over four hundred people for banquets that was sorely needed.

Now for the expectations. Yes, those have changed too. Any Pirate football win was considered a big deal at one point of this program’s growth. That’s no longer the case, and ECU football has been, in some ways, a victim of it’s own success.

The information age has changed the expectation level drastically. Increased radio, television, newspaper and Internet coverage has been a positive step, but it does come with a price. The program is much more under a microscope today than it used to be.

Basketball expectations today are somewhat like football expectations in the eighties. Most people realize Bill Herrion has one of the toughest jobs in the country, with this program taking a giant leap into Conference USA. Fans are appreciative for the wins. Human nature being what it is though will dictate a change in basketball expectations in a few years.

Remember the lyrics “Changes, I’ve Seen a Few?”

Till next time “keep painting ‘em purple.”

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02/23/2007 10:24:21 AM

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