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Another 'Bear' disciple courted to save ship? staff report

Holland Press Conference

Listen to the replay of Terry Holland's Tuesday Press Conference, in which he discussed East Carolina's search for a football coach (recorded by Brian Bailey): Select clip...

The job of coaching East Carolina's football team is Danny Ford's if he wants it, a South Carolina newspaper is reporting today.

The former Clemson and Arkansas coach, 56, has been offered an $800,000 package to assume command of the Pirate ship, according to a story to be published this morning in The Post and Courier of Charleston. reported on Monday that Ford had apparently contacted former ECU coach Ed Emory, now head coach at Richmond County High, to relay his interest in the Pirates job.

Ford, who played at Alabama under the legendary Paul 'Bear' Bryant and adhered to the college football icon's teachings in his own coaching career, won a national championship during his 11-year stint as head coach at Clemson.

Ford is still afforded celebrity status by partisans in the Clemson community, though his tenure with the Tigers ended in 1989 with the program mired in an NCAA probe.

His Clemson teams won five Atlantic Coast Conference crowns and were fixtures in postseason bowl games, including a 22-15 Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska on New Year's Day 1982 that clinched the 1981 national title.

Ford would later hook on as an assistant coach at Arkansas before being promoted to head coach of the Razorbacks in 1993, a position he held until retiring from coaching in 1997.

Citing multiple unidentified sources, The Post and Courier's account states that there is mutual interest between Ford and ECU. Citing another source, the paper indicates that Ford could make a decision on ECU's offer as early as today.

East Carolina has previously experienced boom times under another leader with direct ties to 'The Bear.'

Pat Dye, who would later become one of Auburn's most revered coaches, successfully ushered the ECU program into the Division I-A era during his six-season reign over the Pirates after he was lured from Bryant's Crimson Tide staff by Leo Jenkins and Clarence Stasavich in 1974.

Ford has resided on his farm in the Clemson vicinity since departing Arkansas.

The Post and Courier's article recounts a portion of an interview Ford granted last month to The Associated Press, in which he declared he was "a thousand percent convinced" he could still head up a winning program.

East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland is conducting the search for a successor to John Thompson, who was notified two weeks ago he would be fired at the end of the season. The Pirates nosedived to a 3-20 record during Thompson's two-year stay, which culminated last Saturday with a 52-14 walloping in Charlotte by N.C. State.

Considering remarks made by Holland in an on-campus meeting with the media on Tuesday, Ford's time away from coaching may not be a prohibitive barrier in gaining ECU's consideration as it searches for a coach to lead it back to the level of success on the gridiron its fans had come to expect, until relatively recently.

Though he declined to discuss candidates' names, Holland indicated that he was not necessarily opposed to the concept of luring a coach out of retirement to take over the Pirates. [Listen to the Bonesville Bytes audio archive of Holland's entire press conference.]

The Pirates landed bowl berths six times from 1991-2001, including postseason bids in each of the three seasons preceding the atypical 4-8 campaign that led to the bombshell ouster of Steve Logan, Thompson's predecessor, in 2002. has reported that Holland has considered outgoing Florida coach Ron Zook, former South Carolina assistant and UConn head coach Skip Holtz and William & Mary coach Jimmy Laycock as contenders to resurrect the ECU program.

In a development that has the potential to propel another name into Holland's mix of candidates, Tyrone Willingham is looking for employment after being fired Tuesday as head coach at Notre Dame. Willingham has strong Eastern North Carolina ties, having grown up in Jacksonville, and is familiar with East Carolina, having lost to the Pirates in the 1995 Liberty Bowl when he was head coach at Stanford.

02/23/07 11:30 AM

Compiled from staff reports. A story from The (Charleston, SC) Post and Courier was used as a reference in writing this article. ©2004 and other publishers. All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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