East Carolina athletics director Jon Gilbert said March 13 that his staff needs to use creativity to connect with fans while sports are on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gilbert was at the forefront of such creativity Friday when he held a Facebook live session, sitting in Minges Coliseum and answering virtual questions from Pirate fans. Questions ranged in seriousness and complexity.
“The athletic department is still open for business and we still have several staff members who are working from home or coming into the office to work on different projects, but I am hoping to get back on a regular exercise routine,” said Gilbert, who left Southern Miss for ECU in December of 2018, when asked about what he’s doing with his free time. “I had a mountain bike ride yesterday through Greenville. I rode through multiple parts of town and saw things that I have not seen in my 15 months here.”
On a more serious note, Gilbert admitted there not being an NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year will be costly for all schools’ athletic departments because of revenue sharing. He said the Pirates will need to adjust their budgets.
“The majority of revenue that schools get from an NCAA distribution perspective is a portion of the revenue from that tournament,” Gilbert said. “My anticipation is revenue distribution that every institution receives is going to be less than what we are budgeted for or would typically receive. ... Obviously there are going to be savings that we have right now by not playing athletic events. Our teams are not traveling and we are not paying for workers to work our athletic events.
“There is going to be a savings that will come from that. I don’t know if that savings will equal the revenue distribution decline that we will not get from the NCAA. That is a work in progress with information that is fluid.”
Gilbert started the session with an update that the Pirates are down to single digits in athletes who are on campus, saying almost all of the 450 student-athletes are home or living off-campus.
“For those individuals that are here, we are working on a housing and dining plan for them to make sure they are all being taken care of,” he said.
Some fans wanted to know about football scheduling. ECU has its four noncoference games set for 2020 and 2021, which in the latter year includes playing at Marshall, hosting South Carolina and playing Appalachian State in Charlotte, but scattered vacancies begin in 2022. The lone home game in 2023 scheduled is versus Marshall, while trips are planned to Michigan and Appalachian State.
“I work on football scheduling almost daily,” Gilbert said. “I’m working on a home-and-home FBS regional-type game that I hope to announce in the near future. We have multiple FCS games that we are going to need to announce. If you look at how our football schedule lays out over the next several years, there are some years where all we need is an FCS opponent.”