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Pirates hire Gilbert, Houston

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Chancellor Cecil Staton, middle, and ECU Board of Trustees members begin Monday morning's meeting.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, December 3, 2018

East Carolina made it official Monday morning, approving the hires of Jon Gilbert as the next ECU athletics director and Mike Houston as the Pirates’ 22nd football coach.

The football season ended for ECU and James Madison on Saturday, then ECU met with James Madison coach Houston on Sunday.

The ECU Board of Trustees approved both contracts Monday morning during a closed-session meeting held in the Spilman Building. Pirate special athletics adviser Dave Hart, who previously worked with Gilbert at Tennessee and Alabama, led both searches.

"What we did is we asked the athletic director who we wanted who his top picks were, and the nice thing is the coach that we have now gotten was at the top of his list,” trustees chairman Kieran Shanahan said. “That helped tremendously. ... I think (Houston) understands eastern North Carolina and he wants to be here and we all remember (in 2017) when he beat us. 

“One of the things that he said during the process was that he loved the atmosphere at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.”

Houston is set to make an initial guaranteed salary of $1.3 million in 2019. His contract includes a bonus of $20,000 per win against a team from a Power Five conference.

“An (indoor) practice facility is on the wish list part of it, but it’s on the table because those are the things we need to be competitive,” Shanahan said. “We need to move up in many on the financial categories to not only be competitive, but to play for championships.”

The Pirates dismissed football coach Scottie Montgomery last Thursday. He finished 9-26 in three seasons.

Gilbert has been the lead candidate for the Pirates’ AD spot for a few weeks. The position has been vacant since Jeff Compher accepted a buyout in March.

A 2 p.m. news conference is scheduled to introduce Gilbert. Houston’s news conference is set for Tuesday morning.

Houston has an 80-25 career record combined at Lenoir-Rhyne, The Citadel and James Madison. At JMU he went 37-6, highlighted by winning the 2016 Football Championship Subdivision.

JMU also beat East Carolina, 34-14, in Greenville to begin the 2017 season.

Gil­bert is a grad­u­ate of Lenoir-Rhyne in Hick­ory, where he also played col­lege foot­ball. Hous­ton was head coach at Le­nior-Rhyne from 2011-13 be­fore go­ing to The Ci­tadel and then JMU.

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

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