Jon Gilbert

ECU Athletic Director Jon Gilbert answers questions at a press conference.

If East Carolina University wants to earn any kind of profit, it has to get desperate before the end of the pandemic stricken 2020 college football season.

College football is the most profitable section of college sports and after being forced to make a new and second set of budget cuts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, somebody at ECU needs to get bold or start begging for mercy.

After cutting four teams from its list of sponsored sports and making several other adjustments to its budget, the ECU Athletics Department made it clear that money from boosters in the Pirate Club and whatever there was to be earned from football this season would help to correct its money woes. Unfortunately for that plan, the Pirates’ 2020 football season saw three games get postponed without reschedule dates.

Of the three games postponed for the Pirates, the first would have been a revival of the ECU and Marshall University rivalry on the 50 anniversary of the Thundering Herd’s storied plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970. A season opener against an old rival on the anniversary of a major event in sports history had the potential for so much revenue.

The Pirates lost two home games when they were forced to postpone the first three games of the season so not only losing the major event that the Marshall game had potential to be, but also an additional home game.

None of this would be an issue if ECU had the reach of say the University of Notre Dame or the University of Texas at Austin. Both the Fighting Irish and Longhorns have their own television deals that exist outside of their conference affiliations. Texas with the Longhorn network and Notre Dame with its deal with NBC.

Notre Dame’s current deal which became official in 2013, pays the university roughly $15 million a year. That’s more than double what ECU receives yearly in its current television deal with ESPN through the American Athletic Conference (AAC). ECU rakes in about $7 million a year while Power Five conference schools are projected to see upwards of $20 million a year on their next deals.

ECU’s current TV situation in the AAC isn’t quite good enough to erase its debts and expecting a deal like Notre Dame’s or for the Pirates to get their own network like Texas’ is crazy, but would it be so crazy to ask a notable alumni to help out financially? Grady-White Boats has already pitched in and that’s awesome, but what about Vince McMahon?

CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the man who has fronted the bill on starting his own professional football league twice, McMahon has a net worth of $1.7 billion and most importantly, a degree from ECU. Why has he not been asked to help? Helping save athletics at ECU would be peanuts for McMahon.

Somehow, someway, ECU needs to find money somewhere and with the COVID-19 pandemic hanging around, it has been made clear that football won’t be of much help with limited seating and only three quarters of its original schedule. TV deals aren’t just going to pop up, but using the resources that ECU has to reach notable alumni who might care should be the number one option right now.

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