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Hart gets one-year extension as ECU athletics special adviser

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Dave Hart looks on during East Carolina athletics director Jon Gilbert's introductory news conference on Dec. 3.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dave Hart wants unity and success for East Carolina athletics as much as anyone, which is part of the reason why he is continuing in his role as special athletics adviser for ECU for another year.

Hart has been in the role since March 15, helping with a critical transition as the Pirates parted ways with former athletics director Jeff Compher on March 9. Since then, Hart has been instrumental in major hires for the Pirates in basketball, football and the vacant AD position.

With Jon Gilbert in place as athletics director, Hart now will turn much of his attention to fundraising and what university officials described at Wednesday’s special Board of Trustees meeting as “the revitalization of ECU athletics.” His contact was extended until Dec. 15, 2019.

East Carolina did not have a head football coach or athletics director after coach Scottie Montgomery was dismissed on Nov. 29. Hart led the searches for both vacancies, hiring Gilbert from Southern Miss and football coach Mike Houston from James Madison on Dec. 3.

“As far as I am concerned, this is sort of the third leg of the stool for all that we have been doing in recent months to really support and prepare ECU athletics for success,” Chancellor Cecil Staton said.

Hart earned $281,250 — $31,250 per month — for advising from March 15 to December 15. Officials said those payments will continue as originally agreed upon and will keep coming from ECU’s auxiliary overhead fund, which is a non-state fund. 

“I am very excited, and it is time for us to turn the corner,” Hart said after the meeting. “It’s going to be very important that we move forward in unity and get everybody pulling on the same page.”

Hart, who was the Pirates’ AD from 1987-95 and later athletics director at Florida State and Tennessee, added that he likely will continue to live in Knoxville, Tenn. He also owns the consulting and advising firm Athletics Legacy Partners LLC.

“We will still live there and I don’t know if that will change or not as we move forward,” he said.

One of the athletic department’s biggest challenges was a running budget deficit, which was projected to be $4,223,699 at the end of this fiscal year.

Hart’s examination of the athletics department and breakdown of how the Pirates’ facilities compare to their competitors, however, led to the university’s recent decision to designate $20 million in university funds to settle the debt and make significant capital improvements to athletics facilities. That includes the sought-after implementation of a nutrition and dining facility that caters specifically to student-athletes.

In addition to leading the most recent searches for a new football coach and athletics director, Hart was put in charge of the Pirates’ basketball coaching search in March. He hired Joe Dooley from a winning program at Florida Gulf Coast.

The hires of Dooley, Houston and Gilbert immediately were met with approval and optimism by Pirate fans. That also was lauded during Wednesday’s meeting.

“It was great to have Dave here to associate with our new athletic director and football coach, and I think we are just really excited about him hanging around for another year,” said Trustees Chairman Kieran Shanahan, who participated in the meeting via telephone. “Pirate Nation in many ways has been revitalized. I want to say thank you on behalf of the Pirate Nation.”

Hart and Gilbert worked together previously at Tennessee and Alabama.

Wednesday’s meeting also saw board members approve the contract of football director of strength and conditioning John Williams, who was at James Madison with Houston, and the non-salary compensation plan and bonus opportunities for Williams, new ECU football assistant coaches and new director of football administration Dale Steele.

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

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