Dec 142012
 

The Wilmington Star-News

Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 4:53 p.m.

Holland exits, but Pirates not done building

By Brian Mull

Brian.Mull@StarNewsOnline.com

Greenville | Terry Holland will remain as athletic director at East Carolina University until a replacement is hired, although the timing of that search is unclear. He expects to have no input or influence on finding a successor, either, and even at age 70, he’s not ready to retire.

Meeting with the media on Thursday, one day after the university announced he’d shift into an athletic director emeritus position, Holland reflected on the facilities upgrades made during his tenure, which began in 2004.

“I think we’re better off than we’ve been in a long time,” Holland said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot left to be accomplished. It’s a very competitive environment we are in today.”

It’s equally unstable.

Only two weeks after ECU landed as a football-only member in the Big East, multiple national news outlets reported that the conference’s seven non-FBS members are certain to depart. That would create a tangled mess of money distribution and naming rights, and leave up to 13 schools, including ECU, left to figure out the rest.

Holland knew there was “no safe haven” as he watched four teams leave the powerful Big 12 in the last three years. Exactly who the Pirates will face in the Big East is unclear, but it remained the best fit for the football program in the current landscape.

“The Big East has the best teammates for us right now,” Holland said. “Let’s take a shot at that and help build something. We don’t want something given to us. It would be nice if somebody said we’re going to give you $20 million a year (in media rights) … but those things don’t happen. You have to earn it.”

The football schools in the Big East currently includes several former Conference USA rivals and national powerhouse Boise State. Holland described it as a hungry bunch, eager to invest in programs and facilities, take the necessary steps to earn an automatic invitation to the lucrative Bowl Championship Series.

ECU’s remaining athletic programs must exit Conference USA by June 2014. The Colonial Athletic Association – which ECU helped found in the 1980s and departed in 2001 – is a potential destination. Ultimately, there could be full membership available in the remnants of the Big East.

“There are places that are very interested in having our teams,” he said. “Each of those places have strengths, but not in every area. Like to think you can go into a league that has strong programs in all the sports where you’d like to be competitive. That’s hard to find, to be honest.”

Still, Holland doesn’t want to rush the decision and potentially saddle the university with additional exit fees. Helping ECU locate a conference home for all sports will be a priority until his contract expires in 2014.

“If we do need to do an AD search at anytime we can do it,” Holland said. “Made these plans ahead of time, a search might not begin for two years. It could begin tomorrow. That will be up to the chancellor and the Board.”

Holland said he and chancellor Steve Ballard began discussing the transition earlier this year. A contract extension wasn’t an option. And he doesn’t envision retirement from college athletics.

“I like to fish a little bit, but I don’t like to fish a lot,” Holland said. “I like to win games and I like to win games a lot. So, being around coaches who can win games and student-athletes who can win games has been a big part of my life, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

The new baseball and softball stadium, track, and Olympic Sports administration building are a strong part of Holland’s legacy at ECU. He said his first trip to the Central Florida campus in Orlando made it clear that the Pirates needed significant facility upgrades.

“We were very careful to make sure we invested in revenue producing facilities first that would generate some revenue to help the others,” he said.

Brian Mull: 343-2034

On Twitter: @BGMull

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