|Former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt speaks to members of the ECU Board of Trustees about his desire to help ECU join the Big East Conference. (Photo by Mary Schulken)
Former Gov. Hunt expected to join team
By Mary Schulken
Director of Public Affairs
Former Gov. Jim Hunt is expected to join the team working to get East Carolina University’s athletics program in the Big East conference, university officials said Friday.
Hunt, the governor from Wilson County who served an historic 16 years as the state’s top elected official, made an unannounced visit to a meeting of the ECU Board of Trustees Friday to talk about the project.
“We don’t know yet what we can do to help, but we want to help you,” Hunt told trustees and top university officials gathered at the East Carolina Heart Institute. “One of the things we have learned is that nobody knows exactly where things stand at the current time and what exactly is going on.”
The university has not engaged Hunt. Hunt is expected, however, to reach an agreement with the ECU Educational Foundation, or Pirate Club, the private fundraising organization for ECU’s division I athletics programs.
Director of athletics Terry Holland and Chancellor Steve Ballard confirmed Wednesday that East Carolina has officially sought membership in the Big East. That move would give the university Bowl Championship Series affiliation, which membership in the current C-USA conference does not.
The statement came on the same day that the Big East announced it would begin actively seeking replacements for Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which agreed earlier in the week to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Hunt has been a member of the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC since leaving office in 2001. He lives on his cattle farm in Rock Ridge, some 40 miles from Greenville. He characterized this project as close to his heart.
“I live in eastern North Carolina. I get up every morning in eastern North Carolina,” he said. “The Pirate mascot lives across the road.”
ECU’s reach now extends beyond the boundaries of the region, Hunt said.
“Your graduates are all over everywhere — which is one of the reasons why the Big East would be lucky to have East Carolina.”
ECU’s achievements, academic and athletic, remain a driving force eastern North Carolina’s advance, Hunt said.
“You are in this life to make things better … good schools, good health … and we need those things in eastern North Carolina as much as anywhere else,” he said.