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Pieces of Eight


High Profile Visits to ECU ‘Not a Problem’ for McLamb

By Jeannine Manning Hutson

A week before Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took the stage at Minges Coliseum, J.J. McLamb’s phone rang. And his previous plans for his work week’s schedule went out the window.

ECU’s assistant director of athletics got the first call on Tuesday, Sept. 30 asking if Minges was available for an event the next week. The first walk-through with state Republican representatives occurred on Thursday, Oct. 2. And that’s when McLamb realized who would be the “main event” for the rally on Oct. 7.

“Tuesday I got the call, got the approvals and then we met with the group on Thursday,” McLamb said.

“The group” included representatives from facilities, housekeeping, ECU police, parking and traffic, Information Technology and Computing Services (ITCS), the School of Health and Human Performance, Environmental Health and Safety, ECU administration, and others.

“We treat it as ‘it’s not our party; it’s just our house.’ The event has to follow university guidelines,” McLamb said.


During these meetings, where the state Republican director and the national advance team leader asked about necessary items from sound equipment to tents to teleprompters, McLamb’s answer was always the same: “Not a problem.”

What if we have more people than Minges can hold? McLamb’s answer: “We can overflow to the football stadium.”

What are the attendees going to eat while they wait for hours? “No problem. We can open up concessions.”

What about the national press corps’ need for wireless Internet access? “Not a problem. ITCS can make that happen. It worked well during the Obama visit in April.”

During the off-week for the ECU football team, McLamb might have envisioned hitting the golf course or hanging out with his friends, but instead he worked Saturday setting up for the visit.

“But that’s just an everyday thing over here,” McLamb. “Plans are always changing.”

McLamb said it might appear complicated to those who don’t organize large events weekly, but it’s not really.

“We treat it as another athletic event, we’re just not playing basketball,” he said. “We have pre-set vendors that we work with daily so we know who to call for what need.”

Plus it’s good for the university – image wise and financially.

“We look for non-athletic events. It breaks up the monotony of strictly athletics every day. And it brings in revenue to the university,” he said. Political groups rent Minges just as a group would to stage a concert.

But when the event involves a top-level office holder or candidate, security is left up to local law enforcement working with the Secret Service.

“A lot of what gets done is approved by the Secret Service,” McLamb said. For example, no bottles were sold in the concessions area; only open cups so they can’t be thrown with great force and do much damage.

He was quick to say it wasn’t all his work to make the Palin visit to ECU come off with no major problems. “Without the facilities service guys and others from throughout ECU like ITCS, we couldn’t have done it,” he said.

This was McLamb’s third “high profile” political visit during his tenure at ECU.

He worked at the visit by President George Bush visit in April 2001 while he was a student and he also worked with Sen. Barack Obama’s team to coordinate his April visit to Minges.

A native of Dunn, McLamb came to ECU as a student in the late 1990s and graduated in 2000 with his undergraduate degree and in 2001 with his master’s degree in athletics administration.

And as for who was easier to work with, the Obama group for the April visit or the Palin group for October?

McLamb gave an answer fit for a politician: “They were both good to work with. They were both pretty much the same.”

This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at