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Coaching carousel hits Pirates, AD search

James Madison NC State Football

James Madison head coach Mike Houston talks on his radio during the first half an NCAA college football game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


The Daily Reflector

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Just a few hours after East Carolina officially parted ways with head football coach Scottie Montgomery, there were already coaching candidates being linked to the Pirates’ new vacancy on social media and in other media reports.

James Madison coach Mike Houston was at the forefront, including a report Thursday afternoon by the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., that the Charlotte 49ers’ public pursuit of Houston impacted the timing of ECU’s dismissal of Montgomery. ECU (3-8) finishes its season Saturday at N.C. State, where the Pirates will be led by defensive coordinator David Blackwell.

Houston told reporters on Wednesday that Charlotte had offered him its head coaching position and he was interested, but he had not yet accepted the offer.

On Friday, Charlotte released a statement that athletics director Mike Hill had withdrew the offer because, “Houston informed us that he had interest in exploring other head coaching opportunities, while remaining under consideration here.”

Houston, 47, is a North Carolina native of Franklin.

“It’s just the reality of college football right now with the (recruiting) national signing day moved up to December, and institutions have obviously sped up their process to going after different candidates for different reasons,” Houston told reporters Wednesday. “I was contacted on Sunday by the Charlotte 49ers and athletic director Mike Hill and we had a good conversation and I listened to him and talked to him again on Tuesday. I told him I was interested in the job.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with JMU. I have been blessed to be at James Madison University and have the opportunity to be the head coach here. I am still the head coach here.”

JMU is set to play in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs on Saturday. The team’s coaching staff includes former ECU veteran staffers Donnie Kirkpatrick and Steve Shankweiler.

The Pirates’ 2017 season began with a 34-14 loss to Houston and the Dukes in Greenville.

East Carolina’s football coaching search is still tied to its vacant athletics director position and an AD search led by Dave Hart that for weeks has centered around Southern Miss AD Jon Gilbert. UNC Wilmington’s Jimmy Bass was in talks with Hart this week, but Bass tweeted Friday night that he is no longer a candidate.

“The search for ECU’s new athletics director remains ongoing in earnest, and that individual will finalize the hire for Montgomery’s replacement,” the university’s release said Thursday.

Sources and other media reports also have suggested that Hart hiring Gilbert as the Pirates’ next AD could lead to Butch Jones quickly being a lead candidate as ECU’s next football coach. Jones was head coach at Tennessee when Gilbert and Hart were also at UT. Jones, also a former winning coach at Cincinnati, is currently an offensive analyst for Alabama.

Dwayne Ledford, who played defensive line at ECU from 1995-97 and is currently the associate head coach and run game coordinator/offensive line coach for N.C. State, could emerge as a natural candidate for the Pirates. Shane Beamer, Oklahoma’s assistant head coach for offense and tight ends coach, was involved in the Pirates’ last coaching search.

The coaching carousel also affects Blackwell and the Pirate assistants who will coach the team Saturday amid their uncertain futures.

“I don’t want to get into many details, but I have had several phone calls already and that is the nature of the business,” Blackwell said Thursday afternoon. “This isn’t the time for that right now. I will worry about that Sunday or Monday. And even as we move toward signing day, I’ll do the best job I can as long as they want me to be here.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.


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