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Gilbert, Pirates working on football schedule

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East Carolina's James Summers eludes a Virginia Tech defender on Sept. 29, 2015, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

After hiring a new football coach on his way in the door at East Carolina in early December, Jon Gilbert’s next most pressing task as athletics director is filling the hole in the Pirates’ upcoming football schedule left when Virginia Tech opted out of three scheduled games with ECU, including a meeting this year in Greenville.

Gilbert said this week he is actively working on a plan to replace the scheduled home game against the Hokies for this coming season, and he will also have to fill home voids for 2023 and 2025 games which Tech opted not to play.

“Obviously, I was very disappointed in the manner in which that happened,” Gilbert told the audience at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce Power Luncheon on Tuesday in the Hilton Greenville.

Virginia Tech AD Whit Babcock announced on Dec. 22 the school was backing out of the games, just a few months removed from the contentious cancellation of the teams’ scheduled meeting last September in Blacksburg, which ECU decided not to play amid safety concerns as Hurricane Florence approached North Carolina.

“The way football scheduling works, you schedule so far in advance,” Gilbert said. “I’ve had teams call me since I’ve been here wanting to schedule games in 2027, ‘28 and ‘29. My son, who’s a junior in college, would hopefully have a job by then as a young professional. So when we lose a game this close, there are not many grapes on the vine to go pick.”

Gilbert said he has had conversations with multiple FBS teams about the possibility of playing this season, but in almost every case those schools would have to drop or alter another scheduled game in order to add ECU.

That leaves few good options.

“We are looking at playing a second FCS team, which is not ideal,” said Gilbert, who was formerly the AD at Southern Miss. “My intent would be to attempt to schedule someone that is more local in nature. My football scheduling philosophy, in general, will be, let’s play teams that are, No. 1, good for us from a competitive standpoint, good for us from a financial standpoint and also teams that make sense for us regionally, games that you care about and games that you’re willing to go on the road and see the Pirates play.”

Simply put, Gilbert said if ECU announces scheduled games to be played in the seemingly distant future, it is because of the nationwide scheduling trend.

The Pirates are still scheduled to play in Blacksburg in 2020, 2022 and 2024 as part of a different contract, and according to Gilbert, there are financial penalties for breaching the contract for the games in Greenville.

Harvey update

An East Carolina football spokesman said Wednesday that the Pirates are still waiting to hear back from the NCAA about Nate Harvey possibly receiving an extra season of eligibility.

The Pirates filed a waiver request for medical hardship for Harvey, a defensive end who was a senior in 2018 and was named American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year thanks to 25.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. The request is based on a shortened season Harvey had at Georgia Military college prior to transferring to East Carolina as an invited walk-on in the spring of 2017.

His 14.5 sacks last year ranked third in the na­tion and tied the AAC sin­gle-sea­son record.

ECU begins spring practice March 15 under first-year coach Mike Houston.

Ronnie Woodward contributed to this report.

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

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