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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
By Ron Cherubini
Staff Feature Writer

Stop the merry-go-round... My brain hurts

By Ron Cherubini
All rights reserved.

OK, I know that those things happening,  those things not happening, and those things that may be happening within the East Carolina football program are either moving at warp speed or crawling along looking at the wrong end of a snail, depending on your personal perspective.

With that in mind, this editorial will likely be dated by the time it runs this morning.

So, in the event that in the last few hours ECU has hired a coach — whomever that might be — I want to say I strongly support him, love the new staff, believe we can repeat as Conference USA champions, and pledge 100% support without reservation.

If we are still in the speculation stage — each of us voicing aloud our preferences, dislikes, interpretations of presumed-to-be-inside information, opinions on our AD’s sophistication or fool-heartedness — there is one thing we likely share in common: We call can probably agree that these are scary, worrisome times around ECU football.

This is not the script a back-to-back championship program should be living. I’s simply not fair. The program is caught, seemingly, between being a victim of its own success and of one of the less-publicized impacts of the rigged BCS system. You see, the Pirates' on-field success elevated former coach Skip Holtz to the top of all the BCS vacancy lists, but ECU's stature as non-BCS (I refuse to use the misnomer non-AQ because ECU is truly cut off from the BSC financially) has made it much more difficult to attract a top-notch head coach at this late juncture in the college football cycle.

What are coaches like Rick Stockstill to do when ECU offers a more attractive position? Surely if a current head coach takes the Pirates' offer, he will be characterized by his previous school as a non-loyal guy, step-stoning his way toward the BCS at the expense of the non-BCS school that gave him a chance.

I know, what about ECU's former coach? Why no negative publicity there? I’m just going to let you figure that one out on your own (hint: think BCS, BCS, BCS).

So, Coach Holland now faces the unenviable task of putting any current head coach between the angel on the left and the devil on the right. Meanwhile, we all await the next twit, tweet, post, letter, leak — choose your “reliable source” — to see if there has been any rumored movement toward a coach as the recruiting clock winds down and ECU's own players feel like a group of orphaned kids.

There are quality coaches out there, both in the form of “retreads” and “those without head coaching experience,” and perhaps it will come to that. But I gotta put some blind faith in Coach Holland. He has been here before under equally challenging conditions. This decision is huge, even if only to sustain the program's on-field success for the next few seasons, bridging the way to the eventual coach that will take the Pirates to that elusive “next level,” whatever that is.

While the list of current coaches most desirable to target may be shrinking, the menu of potentially “right” guys is still ample from a program perspective.

East Carolina has talented players with on-field experience returning despite losing 28 seniors. The current recruiting class is holding firm — there is nowhere for them to go should they even want to leave. The Pirates have presumed coaching continuity in the four returning assistants, particularly Steve Shankweiler and Donnie Kirkpatrick.

ECU has an expansion going on that will take the facilities to another milestone. The Pirates have the fans… that have shown up for back-to-back season sellouts. This is a program that at the very least, can sustain, if it brings in one of those “right” guys.

If those of us who love the program are little bit lucky, we might even land the guy who goes beyond sustaining and takes us to new heights.

Our former coach was great — no doubt — but was hired primarily to rebuild the Pirates program. He has done that. The new guy will be asked to usher ECU into, hopefully, a BCS conference.

If I am angry at anything, it is simply the happenstance of it all. Bad luck on the timing has made this a trickier wall to scale. The problem is I am not sure where to direct the anger. For fun, I like first to blame Jim Leavitt (hey, maybe he would come here… second chances are OK with me) for being a jerk and putting this whole mess into motion.

Then I like to blame South Florida — college football’s living example of Mr. McGoo who despite not having done a thing to deserve it, somehow trips and finds success — for flexing its deep, BCS-lined pockets and undeserved BCS clout to swoop in and steal a coach.

Next I blame ECU's former coach for not sacrificing his career aspirations, not denying his wife and kids proximity to their loved ones, and not staying loyal to us (even though we would run him out of town if the team started losing).

Then, I like to blame Coach Holland for not having a back-up, back-up, back-up plan for this contingency. Finally, I end up settling on blaming UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State… well… because it feels better to do so.

I just Googled… ... In the time it took me to write this column, the status of current head coaches on the radar is changing by the minute. Dave Clawson (Bowling Green) is no longer a viable candidate, Rod Broadway (Grambling) is re-interviewing, and Danny Rocco (Liberty) is fast-rising to the top… according to reliable sources… wink-wink.

In this same time frame, Oklahoma coordinator Kevin Wilson, it is said, is very interested and former BCS head coaches Mike Leach and Terry Bowden are still on a large portion of the ECU fans' wish list.

Wait… let me check one more time… Darn! Now Bowden is going to interview for the Louisiana Tech job. Guess he is out.

I can’t take it anymore. This is two much data to process. I wish someone could just take care of all of this so I don’t have to keep speculating and worrying.

Oh yeah… Coach Holland has it covered.

Can’t wait for spring ball.

E-mail Ron Cherubini

Ron Cherubini Archives

01/20/2010 03:17 AM


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