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Pirates brace for more budget challenges

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East Carolina football head coach Scottie Montgomery leads the Pirates onto the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 1, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, September 6, 2018

East Carolina athletics reported a net loss of $666,717 for the 2017-18 fiscal year, creating a running budget deficit of $3,064,234 at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Furthermore, projections for the current fiscal year call for a net loss of more than a $1 million to possibly create a deficit of more than $4 million.

In 2019 is when ECU plans to settle the running deficit. Sara Thorndike, ECU’s vice chancellor for administration and finance, wrote in an email Thursday afternoon that on June 30, 2019, the university will transfer non-state auxiliary funds to athletics so the net loss from operations in athletics is zero.

Earlier in the day during university Board of Trustees sessions, committee meetings fell behind schedule and that led to the athletics portion being very brief. Agenda notes for the meeting, however, detailed an updated athletics budget.

The Pirates’ total revenue for the 2017-18 year was $37,698,452, which was a little more than what was budgeted for and also was down about $1 million from 2016-17 revenue of $38,615,060. ECU is projecting increases in revenue and expenditures for the current fiscal year.

“It’s a combination of efforts to get our budget back to where we want,” Lee Workman said after the brief meeting held at the East Carolina Heart Institute. “Support through our Pirate Club and ticket sales is a part of it with our fans. Chancellor (Cecil) Staton and what they can do from an institution perspective, and then there are avenues we are looking at and talking about to see what we can get done.

“It is going to be a combination effort and it’s a challenge we have in front of us and we all know it. … While we have to get football and basketball healthy, and we’ve talked about that before, there has been a lot of success with a lot of other sports and academically within our program.”

(LINK: ECU Athletics and Advancement Committee meeting notes)

Pirate special athletics adviser Dave Hart was at the meeting, but he did not address the committee amid time constraints. More meetings are scheduled for Friday.

ECU has been without an acting athletics director since Jeff Compher’s ouster on March 9. Hart, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., was hired March 15 to serve as an athletics adviser to Staton and to aid athletics acting chief operating officer Workman when he can with day-to-day operations.

On Saturday, the Pirates host North Carolina for their most important football game of the season. The team, and coach Scottie Montgomery, could use a win to help settle frustrated fans. ECU has had three straight losing seasons and started a new campaign last weekend with a 28-23 home loss to North Carolina A&T.

ECU and the Tar Heels both went 3-9 a season ago, but this is expected to be the highest-attended game of the year at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with the best atmosphere. The Pirates have seven home games this season, and that not only impacts the athletics department and the university, but also other facets of eastern North Carolina.

“It is a rallying point for our fans and the community and for having fans in this community for economic development,” Workman said. “The general spirit and the passion, whenever we play a home football game, all of that comes together. … What is really important about this weekend is that we are all unified in supporting our team and trying to give ourselves the best opportunity to get a victory on Saturday.”

UNC was listed Thursday as a 17-point favorite over East Carolina. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

The meeting notes Thursday also outlined ECU football season ticket sales, which are down for the second straight year. The 12,792 reported in the notes for this season is more than 10,000 behind the 22,832 sold in 2011.

Montgomery has a 6-19 overall record and is in the third year of a five-year contract.

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

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