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ECU fan's protests outlandish, ongoing

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John Bream gained infamy late last month by flying a banner over Greenville calling for the job of East Carolina director of athletics Jeff Compher.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, October 21, 2017

John Bream knows how to get a point across, even across the sky.

But the man who quietly gained infamy late last month by flying a banner over Greenville calling for the job of East Carolina director of athletics Jeff Compher was not necessarily expecting that specific outcome.

It sure got people talking even more about the state of ECU athletics.

Bream's efforts also included an attempt to rent a local billboard brandishing similar sentiment recently. While the plane-renting days might be over, the message behind his efforts is the same and the endeavor is expected to continue in some form this weekend.

“I think the bigger thing with ‘Jeff Compher needs to be fired’ is more wanting accountability from the entire athletic administration,” said Bream, an ECU alum, Pirate Club member and football season ticket holder who footed the bill to twice fly a banner on home game days which read “Fire Compher. Go Pirates!” on it.

He wanted to make it clear he still supports ECU and its student-athletes, so he said the second part of the banner was just as vital as the first.

“Let's be honest, 'Make Compher accountable' or something like that doesn't have the same ring to it as 'Fire Compher' does,” said Bream, an emergency medicine physician and emergency room director at the Rowan Medical Center in Salisbury. “I do think he does deserve to have significant scrutiny on his job, and if the chancellor and Board of Trustees and everyone take a really comprehensive look at what's going on, I think that would be their opinion.”

Bream's concerns center on Compher's recent contract extension, what he deems excessive spending by ECU athletics and the lackluster performance of most of its teams in recent years.

Of primary concern to Bream, like many others at the moment, is the state of the football team, now 1-6 as it prepares to face BYU tonight for homecoming. Declining attendance at home games means more lost revenue.

“Any business where the CEO is losing money, not putting out a good product and people aren't happy with his performance, he would be removed, and that's kind of why I'm curious as to what is happening,” Bream said. “In addition to being removed, they certainly don't give you a five-year extension. That's where this sort of started.”

Where it is leading is unclear, but Bream indicated there would be continued protests.

ECU spent the week leading up to this Saturday's game trying to drum up fan support after the announced crowds for the last two home games against South Florida and Temple were the smallest since 2005. ECU still leads the American Athletic Conference in attendance with and average crowd of 37,539, just a hair ahead of Central Florida.

Compher sent an email to Pirate Club members on Wednesday regarding homecoming. In it, he addressed the football team, saying, “Frankly, we are not where any of us had wanted or hoped to be. However, I can assure you, we have not quit.”

He went on to urge fans to “fight with us, not against us,” and even indicated he had received support in recent weeks from ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton.

ECU football coach Scottie Montgomery, hired by Compher in late 2015 to replace Ruffin McNeill, similarly challenged ECU fans to attend the game and support the team and the university.

“I know that true Pirate fans will come out and support us, and I understand how hard it is sometimes to watch the product,” Montgomery said. “I can guarantee you the guys in this locker room are giving every single thing that they have and the product will get better.”

Like many others who follow ECU football, Bream remembers the words of Compher when the AD formally announced the firing of McNeill. In his public address, Compher said that McNeill, coming off a 5-7 season on the heels of a 10-win campaign, was not meeting competitive expectations.

“He seems to understand that his athletic director's fate was squarely tied to how (Montgomery) performed,” Bream said. “What's not deniable is the football team is not even competitive right now. We've had historic losses, a historically bad defense. You've lost to an FCS opponent (James Madison) for the first time since 1980. This stuff's just not good overall for the university.”

Bream lamented too many ECU teams are currently under-performing based on Compher's outlined standards. He also criticized Compher's recent failure to be seen in the football stadium for events like the recent halftime hall of fame ceremonies.

Bream helped fund his banner displays via a GoFundMe page online, and he stressed there were many people in support of his efforts. He admits he does not know what if anything will come of them, but he is certain about his dissatisfaction with the status quo of ECU athletics.

“I think at this point he either has to leave on his own accord, resign or he would have to be fired,” Bream said of Compher. “At this point, I think he has the opportunity ... to go in front of an objective platform and lay out his vision and what he's going to do to fix all this. Instead, he's just sort of remained invisible.

“You don't even have to be a supporter of what I'm doing to know things are in a bad spot right now. The person that is ultimately responsible for that is Mr. Compher.”

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

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