Former Gov. Jim Hunt and may soon be representing East Carolina University in its bid to become a member of the Big East Conference.
ECU has been talking to Hunt and his firm, Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice about representing them, Hunt confirmed Monday.
They have asked our law firm and me to help them, Hunt said. We haven't firmed up anything. We want to help them. I love that university. We hope it will all get worked out and I am confident it will.
Womble Carlyle is the state's largest law firm.
Hunt, a former four-term governor with broad contacts in national political and educational circles, still lives on his farm in Wilson County in a part of the state where there is broad support for ECU.
He is a long-time backer of ECU, having supported the creation of a medical school at the Greenville campus at a time when that was a major political fight.
Hunt's involvement would not be the first of the political guns that ECU would turn to. Last week, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue pledged at the appropriate time to lobby her fellow governors and top educational leaders in a meeting in Greenville with ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard and athletics director Terry Holland.
ECU, a member of Conference USA, has been looking to move to a more prestigious conference. With two Big East members, Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh, set to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, conference alignments are now in flux.
It would be a great for East Carolina University, Hunt said. But it would be a great thing for the Big East if they could get that university with 27,000 students and growing, with great excellence in so many ways including the med school.
Hunt called ECU the hole in the donut because the Big East already has West Virginia University but then a geographic gap until the University of South Florida. He said that it would help the Big East to have a school in the 10th largest state in the country expected to grow to the 7th largest state by 2030.
East Carolina has a huge fan base and they are the most passionate fans anywhere, Hunt said. So it makes sense for all concerned.