East Carolina University Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson announced May 21 that four programs would be cut from ECU’s 20 team lineup. The four programs affected were both men’s and women’s tennis and both men’s and women’s swimming and diving.
It seems that when a new administration replaces it’s former, the blame game ensues. This appears to be the case with ECU’s current athletic administration. Former athletic director Jeff Compher was quite the target even when he held the position, but since his departure, it seems the current administration has begun to uncover some truths about Compher and his nearsighted faults.
To start, the firing of former ECU football head coach Ruffin McNeill was a meek attempt at setting a tone when he took over for former athletic director Terry Holland in March of 2013. If anything, firing McNeill was the greatest mistake Compher made during his tenure as athletic director.
McNeill posted an overall record of 42-34 as ECU’s head coach, a far better record than his successor, Scottie Montgomery, managed. Montgomery served as the ECU football head coach during the 2016, 2017 and 2018 football seasons and amassed an overall record of 9-26. To Montgomery’s credit, East Carolina was his first time acting as head coach at the Division I level.
Regardless of Compher’s decisions in firing and hiring football coaches, his decision to build Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium’s TowneBank Tower may have been his worst. Compher’s administration had projected TowneBank Tower to amass a revenue of $42.7 million over a 30 year period. The current administration’s projections claim that TowneBank Tower will amass $6 million in revenue loss over the same 30 year period.
The University’s buyout of Compher has also proven to be a debt builder as Compher’s $1,262,500 buyout is still set to be paid out through April 2023.
East Carolina’s former athletic director aside, current athletic director John Gilbert has been doing everything in his power to keep ECU Athletics’ head above water. It’s a shame that the culmination of Compher’s failures led Gilbert to make the decision to cut four athletics programs, but the decision had to be made.
Gilbert and Mitchelson’s decision to cut four sports that have proven to be fairly successful over the years is what is troubling. ECU men’s swimming and diving just won the AAC championship in 2019 and head coach Matthew Jabs was voted AAC Coach of the Year.
ECU women’s tennis wasn’t far removed from a 22-3 overall record in the 2018 season and had only just seen former head coach Tom Morris walk away from a 22-year career before it received news that it would no longer be a part of ECU’s athletics future.
It’s no doubt that the decision to step away from several sports programs was a hard one, but it’s a shame nonetheless.