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Reflections on being a Pirate

Wednesday, January 7, 2004
By Ron Cherubini
Staff Feature Writer


Note to conspiracy theorists: Count me in


It seems, to me, that there is always some shred of truth in a conspiracy theory.

So I’m sitting here watching the Nokia Sugar Bowl on ABC (aka Disney, aka BCS) and a commercial for Snoop Dogg’s Ultimate Bling contest comes on. It’s the commercial where Snoop Dogg is interrogating the Texas Christian Horned Frog. I start thinking about it and I cannot help but get angry.

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You know, the conspiracy theorist in me begins to analyze why they chose the Horned Frog. Well, the obvious is a BCS shot at the top non-BCS school. The fact that such an overt statement, propagated on ABC, is aimed at non-BCS schools wanting to “steal” access to the National Championship is demonstrative at how childishly self-focused the BCS cartel is at heart. Matter of fact, it gives great insight into the type of men that drive the championship series.

But what angered me even more was the giddiness of the TCU faithful over “starring” in a commercial that openly smacks all of those on the outside looking in at the BCS. No doubt, they are excited about national television exposure, and who wouldn’t be, especially among the have-nots. But in the process of starring alongside Snoop, TCU – or at least its image – has unwittingly taken part in endorsing the scam that has been perpetrated on all of us since the SEC concocted the BCS in 1998.

Surely, after it all sinks in, TCU fans and administrators will realize that they were the chumps in the BCS’s ultimate Bronx salute at the non-BCS schools. Right there, in plain sight on national TV — and all of the have-nots get to share in the humiliation for being unwillingly associated with the Horned Frogs.

Meanwhile, we all get to see LSU beat an overrated Oklahoma team that shouldn’t have even been in the championship game in the first place. Southern Cal can spin it any way it would like, but because of the BCS system, the 2003 Trojans will forever be an asterik (*) champion.

Still, as a devoted East Carolina Pirates partisan, I can hardly fault our brethren at TCU. When we’re all fighting for any fiscal crumbs that fall from the BCS table, you gotta to do what you gotta do to gain exposure, right?

Though it is not a true segue, the BCS-TCU conspiracy theory got me thinking about a few of our own cloak-and-dagger mysteries back here at good ole ECU. Forgive my use of a non sequitur here to get to my point – my English professor at ECU would probably sigh and admonish me for it – but I've got something to say.

The last few years around ECU have provided a ton of fodder for us conspiracy theorists. While you won’t hear me speculating as to the reality around these theories, there are some things that make you scratch your head by pure reflex and say, ‘Sure does seem like a conspiracy.’

Mind you, my missives are in no particular order, more in a rambling style, but if any of you have any answers, please send them because after this past football season, I’m so close to the edge a slight breeze could throw me over these days.

Conspiracy Theory 1: The Carolina Cartel wants to keep ECU out of ANY conference that would provide access to the BCS and a level playing field.

Now, I’ve seen the Carolina Cartel at work up close in my day, having been essentially blacklisted by the UNC-Chapel Hill SID several years ago for daring to ask a pointed question or two about the cleanliness of the Tar Heels' programs back when I was a sports reporter in Eastern North Carolina. Inexplicably, even the media credentials were revoked that year for our newspaper's department.

It sure looks like the legislature up in Raleigh and the Carolina-slanted UNC System are in cahoots, as TAX dollars are generously and shamelessly doled out to good ole Chapel Hill without regard for proportionality or economic logic relative to the system's other campuses. For conspiracy buffs, that's a scary thought.

So, when our good governor lent his support to his buddy governor in Virginia in an effort to wrench the ACC into adding Virginia Tech and then sat quietly when ECU called on him for support, it is easy to feel like there is some darker work going on here.

Who got screwed worst by this ACC deal?

Sure, UNC and State and Duke and Wake will never again actually compete for an ACC football title. But, they still get their gluttonous piece of the BCS pie each season, no matter how many times they end up in the league’s bottom half.

Ultimately, by handing NC’s top recruits to Virginia Tech – check where all of this year’s top home grown talent is heading – ECU gets the biggest gut punch. It was tough enough in a state where we have too damn many Division I-A football teams. Now, we get handed one more obstacle.

Conspiracy Theory 2: The NCHSAA is biased against ECU.

Having been privy to the inside scoop from the three parties involved in the ECU Friday Night Football fiasco of 2002, I know that the crux of what turned into a smear campaign against our beloved program was that one party’s word was worthless. And that party, sadly enough, happened to be the one speaking on behalf of ECU. The result was that ECU’s football program got smacked around in the media and on the recruiting trail.

No, the NCHSAA is not biased against ECU. But, jeez, it sure does look that way! Why not move the offices off the UNC campus? Or at least, change the email address! How about a more fevered response to the Duke basketball conflict with the December playoff game at Wade Stadium?

Why not all five Division I schools take part in the NCHSAA championships? By adding Wake Forest, the distance issue becomes moot. Have you ever had to make the drive from Wilmington or Morehead City to Winston-Salem? Instead, by adding Wake and Duke, the NCHSAA looks like an ACC lap dog.

I know, I know… there are steps under way to include ECU in the high school football championship rotation, but it’s the perception that matters. Remember, perception oftentimes equals reality in the layman’s eyes. Once it is out there, the damage is done.

Conspiracy Theory 3: Our Board of Trustees could care less about ECU

Now, I know that this is not true, but if you take a look at the last two years, you gotta wonder.

First, a fissure in the BOT between the Mike Hamrick detractors and the Hamrick patrons (you can figure out whose who yourselves) went unresolved for too long. The deadlock allowed just enough time for the firing of the school’s most successful coach in its Division I-A history by a soon-to-be-hustled-out-the-door athletic director with a demonstrated penchant for contorting facts to suit his purpose of the moment. Fact.

Should Logan have been let go? Yes… I mean No…. I mean Yes… No… Yes… uggghhhh, my brain hurts. Irrelevant... I just want to be loyal to my alma mater.

Second, in the wake of this upheaval at the top of our flagship football program, our now-deposed chancellor, William Muse, had every Pirate fan in the world eagerly awaiting the announcement of a blockbuster coach. Certainly, you wouldn’t fire the school’s most historic coach without an ace in the hole? Right? Who would it be? Would it be George O’Leary? Maybe Bobby Ross or Jim Donnan. Maybe even Pat Dye would come out of retirement, being a former Pirate and Auburn guy.

In the end, there was no ace in the hole, and no PTPers called either, as they all must have wondered what kind of administration would cut loose a coach who had a tenure like Logan's, both on the field and shepherding the academic side of the equation.

Inevitably, according to some accounts, the search committee split on whether to hire Kirk Doll (hey, wasn’t he a former Pirate and now a key assistant for national champ LSU?) or Doc Holliday (from State). Ok… maybe one of these two would do… baited breath… who…?

Neither! No, word has it the hiring team compromised and went with a third choice. (No offense intended to JT, and I sincerely mean that and support him all the way). But, you know what you get when you compromise: half of what you want and half of what the other guy wants and when it comes to coaches, two halfs DO NOT make a whole.

Now, ECU has returned to stepping-stone status. Here’s hoping after Coach Thompson turns it around that he stays a Pirate and doesn’t pull a John L. Smith (can you say, anti-BCS, errr, pro-BCS all in the same calendar year).

Conspiracy Theory 4: Somebody in the BOT wants ECU to fail miserably.

Now let me get this straight. We are going to hire the A.D. BEFORE we hire a chancellor. That is wonderful logic, especially if you want to add fuel to the conspiracy theories. As if JT doesn’t have enough of a mountain to climb. Not only will he have to contend with a new AD who did not hire him, he will have to contend with an AD contending with working for a new President who did not hire him.

If you think any big-time athletic directors are a-callin’, you’re delusional! The big-time athletic directors know where their bread is buttered and certainly would want to know who their boss will be before signing up for any job. No insults intended for Jeff Barber or little Hart. Hal Baird would have been nice, but he couldn’t wait forever and Auburn wouldn’t let him anyway, tying him down with a new contract.

Gee, here is an outlandish idea: How about Dr. Henry VanSant? Hell, if we had hired him after Hart, I doubt any of us would be bitching like we have over the last few years. Yeah… this is an overt pitch to go get the old purple bleeder back home. Sure would be nice to have an ECU guy running ECU’s athletic department – we’ve let the non-ECU guys have a crack and we see where that got us.

Certainly, in their infinite wisdom (note the dripping sarcasm), the BOT has probably already thought of this and are right now working out a contract whereby VanSant would be the AD for a three-year period to return a sense of stability and continuity in the athletic department and groom a proper successor, who would be infused with ECU history and a love for our program.

A guy can dream, right?

Conspiracy 5 (the last one, I promise): ECU fans and alums who are critical of ECU are only hurting the program.

Haven’t we heard this song and dance before? I think it went something like this, “Americans who question our foreign policy are unpatriotic.” Sound familiar? I am all for positive thinking, but the cow at the back of the line can smile all he wants to and it ain’t going to keep him from getting slaughtered when he gets to the front of the line. Run, run away as fast as you can!

We are in some serious trouble as a football program, folks, and it isn’t for lack of fan support. Sure, we could hope to sell a bunch more season tickets, but the pure passion that inspired the Virtual Bowl should dispel any notion that ECU fans don’t truly bleed purple.

There seems to be some sort of group delusion or mass hysteria within the powers that be at ECU and the UNC system. Where does this notion come from that ECU cannot go after and get the best out there? Whether it be that we do not recruit top players “because we can’t get them anyway,” as a former recruiter once said, or whether it be that we cannot go after a big-name coach or administrator because they wouldn’t come to ECU anyway, it is annoying. Why not think big at ECU? Why does it seem that we are our worst enemies when it comes to thinking big? Are we purveyors of self-fulfilling prophecy?

I hope not, but sometimes it sure seems that way.

Leo Jenkins didn’t hesitate to go get Clarence Stasavich when he needed a big-time coach. And you better believe Stasavich was a big-time get back then, coming off an NAIA championship at Lenoir-Rhyne. I’d take a half a Leo Jenkins at this point.

Ron Cherubini: Reflections - 01.07
Note to conspiracy theorists: Count me in
Brian Bailey: From the Anchor Desk - 01.07
UAB game has big implications
Nuggets: Notes from ECU and beyond - 01.07
Letter to the Editor: Jon Rogers, Alexandria, VA - 01.07
Cable 7 Audio: Midweek Tip-Off - 01.07
Henry Hinton, Mike Steele, guests David Garrard, Bill Herrion
Pirate Radio 1250 Audio: Live@&5 Segment - 01.07
Troy Dreyfus, Jon Ellerbe, guest Bill Herrion
Pirate Radio 1250 Audio: Sportsline Segment - 01.07
Patrick Johnson, guest Denny O'Brien
Greg Vacek: Daily Web Headlines Roundup - 01.07

Denny O'Brien: Pirate Notebook No. 167 - 01.06
Showdown with Blazers is Herrion's biggest
Bonesville: BCS needs major surgery - 01.06
Bonesville: Final AP & Coaches football polls - 01.06
Bonesville: AP basketball poll - 01.06
Cable 7 Audio: Brian Bailey Show - 01.06
Guest Greg Herenda
Pirate Radio 1250 Audio: From The Locker Room - 01.06
Kevin Monroe & Sean Farmer
Pirate Radio 1250 Audio: The Press Box - 01.06
Troy Dreyfus, Brian Bailey, Jody Jones & Jim Gentry
Al Myatt: View from the East - 01.05
'Great night for purple and gold'
Bonesville: USC shares glory - 01.05
Bonesville: BCS looks to hoops for answers - 01.05
Letter to the Editor: P. Jeff Martin, Akron, OH - 01.05
Bonesville: Presidents say no, no, no to playoff - 01.04
Bonesville: Rebs scuttle Pirates - 01.04
Bonesville: Change inevitable for failed BCS equation - 01.03
Denny O'Brien: Pirate Notebook No. 166 - 01.02
Pirates getting fortified for league gauntlet
Bonesville: Juco dragnet snares another tight end - 01.01

Note: I would be remiss not to add here that I think JT can become a big-time coach here at ECU. He’s already shown me plenty by how he’s weathered a 1-11 season. And, it is nice to know that he finally might be getting some of the coaches he wanted in the first place.

Conspiracy theories, indeed, are always laced with some realities. Will ECU persevere? For sure, but in what form, still remains to be seen. There will never be a shortage of diehard Pirates and we all know a few Pirates make more noise than a stadium full of Tarheels (sic) or Wolf Puppies. Yet, somebody better speak up and right this ship.

If not us, the diehards, then who? Snoop Dogg?

If we blindly go forward without questioning the competence, integrity, and dedication of our leadership, we are as complicit in our own undoing as that damn cute little TCU Horned Frog who willingly played the fool in yet another BCS attempt to reinforce perception in order to make the masses ignore reality.

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02/23/2007 02:05:35 PM

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