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Hart: Still no timeline for AD hire

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East Carolina Chancellor Cecil Staton during the Pirates' football game against Old Dominion at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 29, 2018.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, October 13, 2018

On Saturday night, East Carolina passed the halfway point in the college football season amid the same uncertainty that has loomed around Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium the last few years.

The Pirates, in a make-or-break season for third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery, lost 42-20 to Houston for a 2-4 overall record.

ECU has booked consecutive 3-9 campaigns under Montgomery to date, meaning a critical evaluation must take place at season’s end about the future direction of the team. As it stands, however, ECU remains without an athletic director, and it appears that will remain the case into the Pirates’ offseason and the start of the Joe Dooley coaching era in men’s basketball.

“The chancellor (Cecil Staton) will be the one that will make that decision, and at this point there is no definitive timeline,” ECU special athletics adviser Dave Hart said Friday night before the school’s hall of fame banquet, reiterating a sentiment that has been the case since former AD Jeff Compher accepted a buyout from the university last spring.

Hart, who stressed he is merely in an advisory role, also noted a search committee for the impending hire has not yet been assembled. The acting AD remains Lee Workman, the department’s acting chief operating officer.

Hart, a former AD at ECU, Florida State and later Tennessee, said he does not believe the lack of a true athletics leader has been a problem.

“I think we have functioned very well together,” Hart said of what he referred to as the athletic department’s leadership group. “Lee Workman is the interim, so Lee is handling the day-to-day. We talk every single day, as well as other staff members and the chancellor. So the communication is very consistent, and that is literally on just about a daily basis.”

The evaluation of football coaches is paramount to the job of athletic directors and very often defines their own success or failure. After the Pirates lost 70-13 at Memphis last year to end the season, Montgomery promised a postseason appearance this year. It was confirmed soon after that the head coach would return for a third season.

It is not clear now, however, who is evaluating Montgomery from week to week in order to determine his future with the team.

“I’d say 40,000 people are,” Hart said, referring to ECU fans, when asked who specifically was doing that evaluation. “Scottie is like all coaches. Scottie is in those communication chains, so that communication is happening and continues to happen, as would be the case in any athletics program. It’s really no different. The communication is constant and very consistent.”

When asked who will ultimately make the decision on whether or not Montgomery returns for a fourth season, Hart indicated it was too soon to make a judgment on the coach.

“I’ve said my whole career, football is a week-to-week proposition, and we’ve seen that already,” he said. “We had two games where it was obvious that we were a lot better, getting a lot better (wins over North Carolina and Old Dominion), and then we had a tough Saturday (last weekend’s 49-6 loss at Temple). That’s college football. If you historically look back at football, you find that every single year. A lot of football is left to be played.”

Hart, who himself has spent plenty of time monitoring the progress of coaches, said because he was just hired to return to ECU this year, he has not seen enough of Montgomery’s body of work to make a true assessment.

“I don’t have a frame of reference other than getting to know Scottie, and I have a lot of respect for how he goes about his job, and I think certainly that he has prioritized the right things in the football program,” Hart said.

No permanent AD in place also means no one person making decisions on the program’s long-term plans, namely overseeing the school’s $60 million renovation to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Hart again stressed communication as the key in making those decisions as a group instead of one person.

“It depends on what the specific circumstance might be or project, like the (stadium renovation),” he said. “I’m in the meetings when I’m in town. When I’m not, I get updates. Again, I’m in an advisory role, and that’s the role that I’ve enjoyed playing. It’s been very gratifying to be in that role.”

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

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