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Gilbert’s goals remain same amid changes

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Jon Gilbert, center, holds a jersey with Chancellor Cecil Staton, right, and special adviser Dave Hart during Gilbert's introductory news conference on Dec. 3, 2018.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, March 18, 2019

A major change in leadership at East Carolina University is coming and athletics director Jon Gilbert said Monday that he remains steadfast in his priorities and plan to push the Pirates forward.

Gilbert admitted that Monday morning’s announcement of Chancellor Cecil Staton’s resignation will naturally alter some of his interactions with fellow chancellor’s cabinet members during the rest of the spring semester, but Gilbert came to ECU in December with intentions of working hand-in-hand with main campus and expects that mindset to continue. Staton plans to stay in an advising role until June 30.

“What I would really convey as new leadership comes aboard is, ‘Here is our plan’ and we want to work together and we want to partner and communicate,” Gilbert said during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “We want to be part of the entire university community.”

Gilbert was hired on Dec. 3 by Staton. Gilbert, Staton and special athletics adviser Dave Hart all helped in December in hiring Mike Houston from James Madison to be the Pirates’ head football coach.

“I am really appreciative of the opportunity that I have here, both from the chancellor and the board of trustees,” said Gilbert, who came to ECU from Conference USA member Southern Miss. “As I am looking at it, today, I am going to continue to serve the leadership at East Carolina and make sure that athletics is in alignment with our campus and institution on how we move the department forward.

“This really is my charge. This transition does not waver me from that stance at all.”

A release Monday morning by the university announcing Staton’s resignation noted that retooling athletics was a priority for him as chancellor. Staton and former Pirate AD Jeff Compher initiated the $60 million Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium Southside Renovation Project that is on track to be completed this summer.

“I am enormously grateful that Dave Hart accepted my invitation to serve as special adviser to the chancellor for athletics,” Staton said in the release. “Together, we have completed successful searches for a new athletics director, head men’s basketball coach and head football coach, and we’ve committed significant university resources to support our proud athletic traditions. I am confident that ECU athletics are in a good place and that our best days are ahead.”

ECU designated $20 million in university money late last year to settle a deficit in its athletics budget and to make significant capital improvements to athletics facilities.

With guidance from Houston and administrators, current renovations in the Ward Building include upgrades to football and to the student-athlete academic center. Plans in the coming months also call for significant renovations to the strength and conditioning area of the Murphy Center connected to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

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

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