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Hart staying through football season

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Dave Hart, who is East Carolina University's special athletics adviser to Chancellor Cecil Staton, answers questions Tuesday at the Murphy Center about his three-month extension.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
THE DAILY REFLECTOR

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dave Hart’s role as special athletics adviser to East Carolina Chancellor Cecil Staton has been extended through football season, in part because of the difficulties the Pirates are facing financially as they prepare for another scholastic and athletics year.

Hart’s original six-month contract was extended Tuesday for three more months, keeping him with the Pirates in his current role until Dec. 15.

This sets up the Pirates to go through football season without a permanent athletics director.

Lee Workman is serving as the athletics acting chief operating officer and communicates frequently with Hart. The university cut ties with former AD Jeff Compher with a $1.2 million buyout agreement in March that ended Compher’s tenure May 1.

Football season ticket sales are down after consecutive 3-9 seasons under coach Scottie Montgomery and ECU athletics is still working to improve a running budget deficit of about $3 million. Also, last week Staton requested an independent audit of the university’s athletic department and an internal review by the athletics office of compliance began into the women’s basketball program.

“In (Staton’s) eyes and his mind, he said he felt like we had more assessment to do,” Hart said of an athletics meeting Tuesday morning before his extension was officially announced. “We haven’t discussed (Hart as a permanent AD), but we are just trying to take it visit by visit to get this assessment complete so that (Staton) can have a real good sense of the direction he wants to go.”

Hart added that his primary role remains on budget and big-picture concerns and not on coaching personnel.

“That’s really not part of my role is to assess personnel, but my role is to assess the program and how we can help from a very positive perspective,” said Hart, a former athletics director at ECU, Tennessee and Florida State who retired from Tennessee in June of 2017 and still lives in Knoxville, Tenn.

Hart’s pay rate of $31,250 per month remains the same as decided in his original contract. The new contract updates his total compensation package to $281,250 for advising from March 15 to December 15. It was determined during initial negotiations that private funds were raised to pay for his services, and an official said Tuesday night that state appropriations will not be used to pay the contract extension.

Montgomery’s long-term standing might still be tied to his guarantee at the end of last season that ECU will make a bowl game this year.

He was hired by Compher after Compher fired East Carolina alum Ruffin McNeill after a 5-7 record in 2015.

Com­pher was el­i­gi­ble to col­lect up to pay­ments to­tal­ing $1,262,500 through April 30, 2023, the uni­ver­sity re­ported March 9 when the ECU Board of Trustees announced the deal to sever ties with Compher just eight months af­ter grant­ing him a con­tract ex­ten­sion.

Hart was hired March 15 and immediately put in charge of the ECU basketball coaching search that produced what has widely been viewed as a success in bringing in Joe Dooley from a winning program at Florida Gulf Coast.

Hart also has helped with decisions this offseason to improve nutrition and other opportunities for football players and in other sports. A new football locker room, lounge area and nutrition station opened before preseason camp earlier this month.

“It gives us the ability to grow what we do, not only what we are able to give the student-athletes but the way that we are able to think about moving forward,” Montgomery said of Hart after Tuesday’s football practice. “It’s just kind of the direction that we have as far putting the student-athlete first and making sure that the student-athletes are getting everything that they need.”

When asked about potential concerns within athletics or from outside perception about the Pirates not having a permanent AD established, Hart said he doesn’t think that is a chief concern right now.

“I think the collective trepidation comes from our current financial position, and they know we are all working very hard to build a plan,” he said. “There is a path for us to get out of the current financial situation. We are not in this alone, because there are a lot of athletic departments that are facing challenges across the country.”

ECU said in a release that the extension will enable Hart to observe a full football season, including gameday experiences and the environment at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The Pirates’ season opener is Sept. 1 against North Carolina A&T and their marquee matchup among seven home games scheduled comes the next week when North Carolina plays at ECU on Sept. 8.

According to ECU, Hart also will continue assessment on student-athlete services and welfare of all 20 Pirate sports teams along with prioritizing and assisting with future planning objectives to include fundraising strategies.

“We are exceptionally grateful Dave has agreed to continue his evaluation of our athletics program," Staton said in a release. "His profound insight has been a critical resource in assessing not only where we are, but where we need to be. It is imperative we maintain this progress, sustain the utilization of information and continue to address evolving components that will allow us to be in a position of stability for future leadership.”

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

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