Thompson era terminated
East Carolina will play the
final two games of its disappointing 2004 football season with a football
staff on its way out.
hired two years
ago at a time when the ECU community was mired in a civil war of sorts over
a string of divisive moves by administrators, was notified of his
termination Tuesday night by recently appointed AD Terry Holland.
Henry Hinton of WNCT-AM Talk 1070 broke the
news of Thompson's dismissal in a Wednesday morning broadcast. Hinton is
also a columnist for Bonesville.net.
After compiling a 3-18 record
for a program accustomed to contending for bowl bids, Thompson announced at
a Wednesday afternoon press conference that he
had reached a contract settlement with ECU and would relinquish the reigns
of the program after season-ending games with Memphis and N.C. State.
Thompson succeeded former
Pirate coach Steve Logan,
who was abruptly fired after posting a 4-8 record in 2002
on the heels of coaching ECU to bowl berths in each of the previous three
The Pirates staggered to a
1-11 campaign in Thompson's first year on the job and are 2-7 so far this
season, sharing last place in the
Conference USA standings with Army.
coordinator on the staff of Ron Zook at Florida when he was hired by ECU,
urged supporters to back the team in the season's remaining two games,
acknowledging he understood the reasoning behind his dismissal while
contending that progress had been made during his brief tenure.
"Please continue to support
our players and the staff," Thompson said. "The bottom line is, we didn't
win enough games and we didn't have enough time, but we planted a lot of
The chancellor, Bill Muse, and
athletic director, Mike Hamrick, who ousted Logan and hired Thompson in
December of 2002, each left ECU under a cloud of controversy in subsequent
named ECU's athletic director on
Sept. 6, alluded to those tumultuous times in ECU's recent history in a
statement praising Thompson for his efforts.
"The last three plus years
have been ones of turmoil for ECU athletics," Holland stated. "Coach
Thompson and his staff literally inherited a 'house divided.'
"Although they have done
everything humanly possible to heal those wounds, the lack of success on the
field has made an overwhelmingly difficult healing process virtually
In light of the announcement
that a change in staffs would be made, Holland urged ECU supporters to rally
behind Thompson and the Pirates as the season heads to a conclusion and to
unite going forward for the good of the program.
"I would ask all true Pirates
to turn out in record numbers to help Coach Thompson and his team win these
last two games," Holland stated. "We all have something to prove to this
group of coaches and players, to future recruits and to ourselves.
"We, as a group, need to focus
on doing whatever we can to win football games by discarding all past and
current distractions — that includes injuries and slights, whether real or
perceived, by the BCS, conference realignments, athletic department
decisions, coaching decisions, or whatever excuse we have used for not
giving Coach Thompson and his team our 110% support."
"Coach Thompson, his staff and
his team members have never given up under these adverse conditions," added
Holland's statement. "This team has a core of young, talented players who
can be the foundation for rebuilding the Pirate tradition of outstanding
Holland indicated in the
statement that he will not focus on pursuing a new coach until the
conclusion of the current season. The Pirates host Memphis on
Saturday at 2 p.m. and close the 2004 season against N.C. State in Charlotte
on Nov. 27.
"Until this season is over, we are going to dedicate ourselves to learning
to win football games again," he stated. "Our focus on that will be so
intense that we are not going to discuss the coaching change, search process
or anything other than this football team and what we can do to help win
these last two games."
"After these two games are
played, we will turn our attention to the search for a new coach," continued
Holland's statement. "Our first option will be to seek a coach with a
successful record at the Division I level. It is apparent that this is a
small pool of people and 99% of them are under long term contracts at their
current institution. Therefore, the pool of candidates will include
coordinators at highly successful Division I-A programs and highly
successful head coaches from other Divisional levels."
diminished Pirate Club support and a perceived pressing need to make the
program attractive to potential suitors in an expected next round of Bowl
Championship Series-inspired conference reconfigurations — in addition to his record
on the field — may have been
factors that weighed in the decision to force Thompson out before reaching
the midway point of his five-year pact with the school.
In the most recent spate of
league realignments, the reeling Pirate program was rebuffed by the Big East
Conference, which issued invitations to ECU's fellow C-USA members
Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida.
ECU faces an athletic budget
deficit of $1.3 million this year, according to sources, and felt compelled
to cut its losses and begin the process of reviving the fan interest and
financial support that Pirate football has historically generated.
Sources indicate that Holland will have a package of roughly $750,000 to $800,000 to hire a
Thompson's total compensation
was around $300,000 annually and he has three years left on his base
contract at $150,000 annually. Thompson did not disclose in Wednesday's
press conference the terms of his settlement with the school.
Logan's package was in the
$500,000 per year range and included a base salary of $200,000, which ECU is
contractually obligated to continue paying until Jan. 1, 2006.
Bonesville.net staff members
Al Myatt and Danny Whitford contributed to this report.
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