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AD: Cost of attendance is costly, necessary

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New ECU football coach Scottie Montgomery holds a jersey bearing his name as he stands with Chancelor Steve Ballard, left, and Athletic Director Jeff Compher during a press conference at the Murphy Center on Monday.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Perhaps it is just human nature to take certain things for granted, even in the multi-million-dollar world of college athletics.

Just a few years ago, a trend swept through that world, football-first as it often does. Schools and conferences began offering their student-athletes full cost of attendance in addition to the usual benefits of a scholarship.

East Carolina was at the forefront of the trend, as was the American Athletic Conference it had recently joined. It was a tall order at the time financially and understandably it still is. Cost of attendance is now treated simply as a matter of course, especially now that the American has adopted all of the rules and regulations that are followed by the Power Five conferences they hope to join sometime soon.

So it is merely expected. ECU Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, who once worked in student affairs at N.C. State, likened it to dorm renovations on college campuses.

“You work your butt off to make sure the building is perfect, their rooms are perfect and everything’s working — the plugs are working, the cable’s working, the key works, all that,” Compher joked recently. “Two weeks later, everybody forgets about everything you went through to make it happen. They’re all in class, they doing their homework, they’re hanging out with their roommates, so it’s the same thing.”

The impact of the cost of attendance commitment has turned into expectation, Compher said, but it would appear to be just another in a long line of expectations to be met to stay on course with the American’s Power Six movement toward future inclusion with the autonomous leagues.

The AD readily admits the cost is a worthy one for bettering the daily lives of his student-athletes, and knows there is pressure behind all such decisions.

“We have adopted every Power Six or (Power) Five legislative initiative that they’ve put forth as a conference, and I think that’s what sets us apart from all the other conferences and makes us a Power Six conference,” Compher said. “Monetarily, it’s maybe an expense five years ago you weren’t anticipating, but what it’s done for us as a program is say we’re on a level playing field with anybody in the country. We’re committed to that.”

In terms of actual dollars, Compher said paying cost of attendance for ECU student-athletes is currently costing about $1 million per year in addition to traditional scholarship money.

Needless to say, the AD turns to the Pirate Club — the chief fund-raising arm of ECU athletics — for help in raising it.

But in his eyes there would have been no benefit in waiting around to see what other schools or conferences did, or to delay the burden of the new expense when the trend first began. The advantages outweighed the expense, he said.

“Competitively, what that means for us recruiting-wise, I think it’s immeasurable,” Compher said.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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