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Shanahan: Athletics leadership a top priority

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Chairman Kieran Shanahan, center, looks over during the East Carolina University Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday at the Spilman Building.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Chairman Kieran Shanahan delivered his post-meeting comments with a stay-tuned tone on Tuesday after the East Carolina University Board of Trustees met for two hours in closed session concerning ECU athletics.

The Pirates have been without an athletics director since 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.

“It is the No. 1 priority for our board, and I think you will be hearing from us very soon,” Shanahan said after the meeting. “You can be sure that it is very high on our agenda. ... The process has been ongoing, and the unfortunate part sometimes is that when we have decisions involving personnel matter, you just can’t talk about them.

“Questions raised are legitimate, and Pirate fans want to know and they want to know now, but we are trying to be thoughtful and strategic about it.”

Shanahan opened the special meeting held in the Spilman Building on campus and immediately put it into closed session to consider confidential personnel information.

He did not say if Dave Hart, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., and has been the Pirates’ special athletics adviser to Chancellor Cecil Staton since March 15, was part of the meeting remotely.

Speculation this week about the meeting centered around the possibility of Hart, a former AD at ECU, Florida State and Tennessee, accepting some type of a permanent athletics leadership role. Hart’s current contract lasts until Dec. 15 and it pays him $31,250 per month for his role that is mostly carried out from his home in Knoxville.

Athletics acting chief operating officer Lee Workman has been handling the day-to-day duties in Greenville since Compher’s departure.

“I really can’t say or speak to that,” Shanahan said when asked if Hart was involved in Tuesday’s meeting.

The fall semester already has seen challenges for the Pirates, including last week when the school’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach, Heather Macy, resigned at the conclusion of an internal compliance review into her program.

A $75 increase in student fees also was proposed last week to go toward athletics to help with the athletic department’s running budget deficit that is projected to be at more than $4 million by the end of this fiscal year.

In football, ECU is winless through four American Athletic Conference games and has a 2-5 overall record as attendance continues to decline and outside pressure remains on third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery. He has a 3-17 record through 20 AAC games with the Pirates.

“The matter of the (student) fee increase goes through a very robust process,” Shanahan said. “Obviously we hate ever having to raise any student fees for anybody, because we know what a burden it is on families and students. ... There was no need to have any discussion about that today, but we certainly are aware of it and that nobody likes any fee increase or tax increase.”

Attendance for a game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium dipped below 30,000 for the first time since 2005 when ECU had an announced crowd of 29,851 on Oct. 13 for a 42-20 loss to Houston. The Pirates hosted 10th-ranked Central Florida last Saturday for a primetime matchup for homecoming, and the announced attendance was 31,159 at the stadium that has a capacity of 50,000.

The university has regular board of trustees meetings scheduled for Nov. 1 and 2.

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

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