By Ronnie Woodward
June 27, 2014
Now he’s a head coach, and he’s back at East Carolina.
ECU second-year athletics director Jeff Compher introduced Godwin as the Pirates’ 16th head baseball coach on Thursday morning during a news conference, saying that Godwin “fits the profile perfectly to be our next head coach.” It is Compher’s first hire as the Pirates’ AD and Godwin’s first head coaching gig.
Godwin, who played for legendary ECU coach Keith LeClair, said it was his collegiate connection to the Pirates that originally sparked his interest, but ultimately he realized there were other reasons to take the job.
“When I sat down with Jeff and his staff in Omaha, I told them that the only way I would take the position is if they were willing to compete on a national level,” Godwin said. “From the first second I sat down with those guys, I knew that they wanted to compete at a national level. … We’ve knocked on the door to Omaha, and that’s why I accepted this position, and I’m very proud and blessed to be the next head coach at East Carolina.”
Godwin, who replaces former coach Billy Godwin (no relation), said his immediate focus is recruiting, which includes reaching out to all of the team’s incoming signees, and filling out his coaching staff. He said he believes recruiting is the lifeline of any college baseball program, and when asked specifically about competing on the field and on the recruiting trail against in-state schools that play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, he said he doesn’t plan to back down.
“Not to sound too arrogant, but we’re going to compete nationally and we’re going to compete against anybody,” said Godwin, who has worn LeClair’s No. 23 in past stops but plans to wear No. 16 at ECU. “Back when I played here, we beat everybody, so that’s what we want to do.”
After the news conference, Godwin participated in a fan event in which he stressed to those in attendance the importance of their role in the program and restoring energy back into Clark-LeClair Stadium to make it a difficult place to play for opponents.
Prior to his three-year stint with the Rebels, Godwin spent three seasons as Central Florida’s associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.
His other trip to the CWS came as an assistant at LSU in 2008. His other SEC experience was as director of baseball operations at Vanderbilt — this year’s national champion.
The new Pirate skipper, who met with some current players on campus Wednesday, will be looking to get the Pirates back into the NCAA postseason after the team experienced two straight seasons without a regional bid.
“I think you stick it out and you just kind of have to trust people and trust that things are going to go well,” catcher Travis Watkins said of watching the coaching transition unfold as a player. “We didn’t have the year we wanted to this year, but I think we have the players in place that we can come back and turn it around next year.”
Watkins, who sat out most of last season because of an arm injury, was one of the players who met with Godwin on Wednesday and he said he was encouraged by the coach’s words on Thursday.
“I think you can tell the passion that he has for the game and the love he has for East Carolina, which I think is really important,” Watkins said.