August 23, 2004
- N.C. State finally bowed to outside and internal pressure by re-assigning assistant strength and conditioning coach C.J. Hunter to another position within the athletic department. Hunter, a former world champion shot putter, tested positive for banned substances four times before the 2000 Olympics and subsequently retired from his sport in disgrace. He had been working with the N.C. State football program for three years first as a volunteer, then as a paid member of the staff making $30,000 a year. Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato often praised Hunter for his rapport with the players and their families.
The move of Hunter may have been accelerated by recent criticism from the media (national and local) and scrutiny from university administrators, in the aftermath of Hunter's interview with an IRS agent in which he claimed to have personally injected his ex-wife, track superstar Marion Jones, with steroids. Hunter was re-assigned to a position in which he no longer will have direct or supervisory contact with student-athletes. Why he had it in the first place, considering his background, remained unfathomable to most observers, including many N.C. State fans and employees.
Give Amato credit for this: Sometimes, coming in second is not such a bad thing, especially when it comes to recruiting. Thanks to his amazing connections in South Florida, and perhaps his considerable influence with the N.C. State admissions department, the coach came up with the biggest find of the summer in early August. Former Miami Killian stud Bobby Washington, a Miami signee rated one of the top tailbacks in the nation, went looking for a new school after he was denied admission by the Hurricanes. He quickly found the Wolfpack, which recruited him last year and already had four Killian products on its roster.
According to Washington, his coaches and members of his family, Miami officials were concerned about his unusually large (the equivalent of 350 points) test-score jump from a regular SAT (750) to an untimed, special-circumstances ACT (24). The Hurricanes also wanted more time to investigate allegations that someone who identified himself as Washington tried to take a separate standardized test for the highly touted running back. Washington, a learning-disabled student, denied that he ever took a third test and said he knew nothing of any imposter. NCSU officials apparently shared neither of the reservations raised by Miami, as Washington quickly was approved for admission in Raleigh, less than 72 hours after being turned away by his hometown school.
One running back who apparently won't be available to Amato this fall is junior Josh Brown, who has decided to stop playing football for now but plans to work as a student assistant with the team. Amato said Brown, the Wolfpack's second-leading rusher over the last two years behind T.A. McLendon, can re-join the team any time he likes.
Apparently, nobody has really put two and two together about the losses on N.C. State's defensive front. The Wolfpack lost two returning veterans, tackle Kennie Covington and end Chip Cross, to academic deficiencies. Two recruits expected to be on the unit, tackle Brandon Setzer and end Willie Young, failed to qualify. That makes four fewer people who were expected to help out on the weakest part of what was one of the worst defenses in the ACC, primarily because the defensive front was so inexperienced.
The good news is, ends Mario Williams and Manny Lawson could be monsters of the pass rush this fall, and tackle John McCargo looked almost unstoppable in preseason practice. Sophomore Tank Tyler and freshman DeMario Pressley, the Pack's top-ranked recruit, also were impressive in August.