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AAC boost helps ECU's negative budget

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East Carolina linebacker Aaron Ramseur chases Central Florida's Cam Stewart during UCF's 63-21 win Oct. 14, 2017, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, April 19, 2018

An unexpected infusion of cash from the American Athletic Conference will help offset other losses and keep East Carolina athletics within negative budget projections for the current fiscal year — an expected loss of about $979,000 to bring the department’s running deficit to $3.2 million in June.

AAC football postseason success helped the conference increase its distribution to ECU by $611,440, according to a 2017-18 financial report as part of Thursday’s Board of Trustees athletics and advancement committee meeting held in the Murphy Center.

The extra AAC money will help ECU make up for ticket sales under budget in all four major sports — football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and baseball. Sales are projected to be $628,000 under what was budgeted in July of 2017. Most notable is football ticket revenue, which was budgeted for $6.4 million but brought in about $5.87 million.

“You make your best guess, and some things you have a really good idea on because it is totally in your control, but other things aren’t in your control or aren’t very much in your control, and those things can vary a little bit more,” former vice chancellor of administration and finance Rick Niswander said after Thursday’s meeting. “We are confident that when we get to the end of this fiscal year that the results will be as expected or a little bit better.”

Central Florida’s undefeated football season, which ended with a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl, was the driving force behind the boost in league football revenue. ECU senior associate athletics director for administration Lee Workman also pointed to Memphis playing in the Liberty Bowl and the quality of the top-end of the conference having a positive impact.

“Whenever our league in football has that type of success, we all benefit,” he said.

The Pirates struggled in a second consecutive 3-9 season, which included a 2-6 league mark to finish tied for last place in the AAC East division for the second straight season.

Thursday’s meeting was centered around a joint presentation from East Carolina and American Athletic Conference officials, including conference commissioner Mike Aresco via a video feed, on NCAA compliance and institutional control.

Pirate special athletics adviser Dave Hart, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., attended the meeting and he did not underestimate the negative impact NCAA penalties can have on an athletics department. He said he has seen boosters be disassociated from a university during his long tenure as an athletics administrator at multiple schools and described it as embarrassing.

“My role is to position ECU athletics for success in the future, and the one thing and the one crack in the foundation that would be hardest to repair would be a misstep in compliance,” Hart said.

Officials gave several presentations on institutional control and the handling of prospective and current student-athletes in regard to NCAA rules and recruiting.

At the start of the meeting, Aresco voiced optimism in the Pirates’ recent hire of Joe Dooley from Florida Gulf Coast to take over as the Pirates’ head men’s basketball coach.

“I think that’s a great hire and we think it’s going to mean a resurgence of your program,” Aresco said. “We need basketball to be strong for not only the benefit of your university, but for the conference.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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